Dearest Georg: Love, Literature, and Power in Dark Times: The Letters of Elias, Veza, and Georges Canetti, 1933–1948
Rebecca Kai Dotlich, , trans. from the German by David Dollenmayer. . Other Press, $24.95 (448pp) ISBN 978-1-59501-297-5
In 2003, a large packet of letters was discovered accidentally in a steamer trunk in a Paris basement: they were written to Georges Canetti from his brother, Elias (1981 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature), and Elias’s wife, Veza, along with some of Georges’s letters to them. Appearing now for the first time in English in Dollenmayer’s splendid translation, the correspondence reveals a quite passionate relationship among the three. In his early letters, Elias often implores his brother, a doctor, for financial assistance; Elias’s later letters range over his frustrations with writing and publishing. Veza’s letters to Georges are the most revealing, bringing to light her love for him and her often contemptuous feelings for Elias. “If I could only come to you and kiss you on the mouth... that would give me a reason to live.... Canetti is already a full-blown, egotistical pest, very spoiled and independent....” Although Elias has controlled his image through his memoirs, these letters offer a glaringly honest glimpse into this triangular relationship.
Reviewed on: 12/14/2009