cover image The Play of the Eyes: T

The Play of the Eyes: T

Elias Canetti. Farrar Straus Giroux, $22.5 (329pp) ISBN 978-0-374-23434-8

From the late 1920s through the mid-'30s, Canetti lived and wrote in Vienna, ""an imperial capital which was no longer imperial,'' while ``the great madness spread like wildfire'' in Germany as the Nazis consolidated their grip. The third volume of his acclaimed autobiographical memoirs, The Play of the Eyes ambles along unpredictably, mingling character sketches, cafe conversations, dramatic readings of his plays, trips to Prague and Strasbourg, musings on the power of crowds and what makes the good man. Canetti offers uncanny insights into his combative friend, novelist Robert Musil, a slightly tipsy, widowed Alma Mahler, conductor Hermann Scherchen and others in his circle. He charts the influence of his mentor, Dr. Sonne, and of Karl Kraus whose writings nearly held Canetti in ``psychic enslavement.'' Canetti uses a dramatist's gifts here to achieve emotional depth; his mother's death, sketched simply against the backdrop of a crumbling Europe, takes on a tragic dignity. (June)