Saturday’s Book: “The Tongue Set Free” by Canetti

The full title is “The Tongue Set Free; Remberance of a European Childhood”

And what a childhood it was!

I encountered this book by chance. It was in the “Readers for Readers” free corner. I’m embarrassed to admit that I really didn’t know who Elias Canetti was, but the book said “Winner  of the 1981 Nobel Prize for Literature”, and I thought I would give it a try. So pleased that I did!

His childhood was truly European. He was born in Bulgaria in 1905, and lived later in many places, such as Manchester, Vienna and Zürich. He learned so many languages! His father died when he was young and life with his mother was a complicated affair. One constant in his life was his passion for books.  I had known nothing of life in the Balkans or Vienna during WW1 and the background is very interesting too.

I can’t resist sharing a story of his from his early childhood in Bulgaria. Those years were spent in an observant Sephardic Jewish Community. I was astonished to read that the holiday of Purim (which we are celebrating this week!) was not a celebration of costumes for children, as it is today. If the children were lucky they were allowed to observe some of the adults’ antics with elaborate masks (some even covering their entire heads). The adults went to the Purim parties while the children were sent to bed!



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