, written in German
, by Bulgarian-born Jew
, Elias Canetti
, it recounts his childhood experiences
that span the borders of multiple European cities. The narrative begins is Ruschuk, Bulgaria, where he was born into a religious Jewish household. It then shifts to Manchester, England
where Canetti's young parents moved so that the father could work in the business of his brother-in-law. After his father's death from a heart attack
, Canetti's mother takes her children to her beloved Vienna
, the city where she had her education, met her husband, and fell in love with the theater
The memoir is notable for many humorous recollections
. I will retell one of them below:
In the Bulgarian period, Elias becomes fond of a Turkish
servant who chop wood with an axe for the family's fireplace. As Elias watches the servant sing while he cuts the wood from the window, he smiles at the servant and the servant smiles back at him.
Later, Elias notices that his young female cousin has started learning how to write in school. He wants to see the notebook
where she draws her letters for homework
so that he can learn as well. However, she, being taller than little Elias, holds the notebook tauntingly
above her head.
Frustrated at this humiliation, Elias reaches for the axe
that the Turk uses to chop wood and chases his young cousin with it, demanding that she hand over the notebook or else.
The young boy's grandfather witnesses this scene and drags the boy into the house by his ears. In later recollections, the grandfather notes that had he not stopped the child in time, Elias would have cursed the family by becoming a murderer
at a young age.