The Rediscovered Writings of Veza Canetti

The Rediscovered Writings of Veza Canetti

Out of the Shadows of a Husband

Julian Preece


Camden House



A fresh, nuanced view of Veza Canetti's literary career and its relationship to that of her famous husband.
The Viennese playwright, novelist, and short-story writer Veza Canetti was born in 1897 into a mixed Sephardic-Ashkenazi Jewish family and died in 1963 in London. Part of the avant garde in 1920s Vienna (where she met her future husband and Nobel Prize winner, Elias Canetti), from 1932 she wrote radical short stories drawn from everyday life for the Vienna Arbeiter-Zeitung. After censorship under the so-called Corporate State reduced her opportunities for publication, she disguised her critique in irony and humor, but from then on published little. Until 1990, when her first novel, Yellow Street, was finally published, Veza was known only as her husband's muse and literary assistant. As more of her writings appeared, critics became convinced that it was he who was responsible for her decline into obscurity, notwithstanding his protestations of support and admiration. This biography tells a more nuanced story, presenting Veza's literary career against the background of her troubled times, drawing on Elias's unpublished papers to assess their literary partnership, showing how their early writings constituted a private dialogue on topics as diverse as feminism and Jewish identity and how several key themes in his work are anticipated in hers.

Julian Preece is Professor of German at the University of Wales, Swansea.

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April 2007
196 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571133533
Format: Hardback
Camden House
BISAC LIT004170, LIT004290, BIO007000
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Table of Contents

A Lost Literary Life Recovered: Veza Canetti
The Case of Veza Magd
Shared Beginnings
Workers' Writer: Veza at the Arbeiter-Zeitung, 1932-33
What's in a Name? On Maids
Writing under Cover, 1934-38
Rivalry and Partnership
Works Cited


One of the most exciting events in German literature of the last few years has been the reappearance of Veza Canetti (1897-1963). The short stories she published in the 1930s had long been forgotten when five of them...were published in book form as Die Gelbe Strasse (Yellow Street) in 1990. [Her] controlled artistry, her injection of subtle, sometimes bitter irony into her informal narrative prose... made this a new and disturbing literary experience.... In this biographical and thematic study, Preece sensitively investigates the contradictions in Veza Canetti's life and work.... [T]he Rediscovered Writings of Veza Canetti is an indispensable starting point. TLS

Wife of the famous Austrian author and Nobel laureate Elias Canetti (1905-94), Veza Canetti (1897-1963) was an author in her own right. Since the early 1990s, her relatively slim oeuvre (a novel, a play, and a collection of short stories all published before WW II) has been steadily gaining attention.... [A]n intriguing, provocative analysis of the couple's dynamic relationship. CHOICE

The book... represents a major contribution both in regard to the work of the Nobel prize winner Elias Canetti and to the narrower and yet far too little known oeuvre of Veza Canetti, his wife. ETUDES GERMANIQUES

This publication of an extensive study on the works and life of Veza Canetti (1897-1963) is a welcome event, since the recognition of this important writer ... has long been overdue. ... The strength of the book lies in the inclusion of all known writings by Veza Canetti, since some of them were not found until the turn of the millennium. MONATSHEFTE

This book clarifies the complexity of a very intricate personal relationship and productive literary collaboration as well as rivalry.. [I]t presents the hitherto widest-ranging thematic analysis of Veza's literary production with a strong emphasis on biographical, historical, and factual evidence. MLR

[A]n insightful study of Veza Canetti's literary works and the ways in which they are in constant dialogue with that of her husband. GERMAN QUARTERLY

Scholars interested in either Veza or Elias Canetti will find this book to be a valuable addition to their libraries. All quotations in this book are in English, making it accessible to a broad range of Anglophone scholars. GERMAN STUDIES REVIEW

Author Bio

University of Kent, Canterbury, UK

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