115 years ago, on July 25th, Elias Canetti was born in Ruse (then Ruschuk). 76 years later, in 1981, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature for “works marked by a broad perspective, a wealth of ideas and artistic power.” Bulgaria then missed the event. The name of the writer is little known to a small circle of intellectuals. Canetti was “inconvenient” for the communist government and was banned because of his public support of Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov. Especially for the totalitarian rule of the time his most significant work “Crowds and Power” was viewed as “Inconvenient”. Almost a decade later did we have the opportunity to read Elias Canetti in Bulgarian and to appreciate the confession written by him: “Everything I experienced later had already happened to me in Ruschuk.” He says so, although he owes more to London, Vienna and Zurich. They are his “special urban deities,” as he calls them in his Nobel Prize speech. There, Canetti bows to Carl Klaus, Franz Kafka, Robert Musil and Hermann Broch. He ends his speech like this: “It would be impossible not to think about these four men. If they were still alive, I think one of them would be here in my place.” Elias Canetti lived for 89 years. He died in Zurich and was buried next to James Joyce.
Every Bulgarian with an interest in the higher levels of thought has access to the literary heritage of Elias Canetti today and to the messages that remain true even today and effortlessly fit into the political, social and life situations of the 21st century.
Founded in 1992, the International “Elias Canetti” Society has been looking for a new Nobel laureate for nearly 30 years. He or she may not have been born in Ruse or Bulgaria, but may have read his or her own lines in the alternative space of Canetti House. This has been going on for 12 years during the Literary Festival. Elias Canetti Publishing House brings the German-speaking authors close to the Bulgarian reader. The Austrian Library “Elias Canetti” in Ruse is 15 years old. Today it has a complete collection of works by and for the Nobel laureate. Some of the books are in 19 languages. They were donated by Dr. Thomas Franz Schneider from Basel, Switzerland.
On July 25th the General Assembly of the Society will celebrate the birth of its patron. The planned celebration with many guests and events for the 15th year of the Austrian Library – Ruse and the 115th of Elias Canetti is postponed for October due to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It will hopefully happen by the end of 2020.