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This article is taken from PN Review 244, Volume 45 Number 2, November - December 2018.

on Anthony Rudolf

Anthony Rudolf’s Silent Conversations
Frederic Raphael
I FIRST, AND LAST, read Elias Canetti’s 1935 novel, Die Blendung, under its English title, Auto-da-fe, in the early 1950s in Cambridge. My adhesive memory is of a man whose living space is voluminously pre-empted by print. Dr Peter Kien adheres to an obsessive version of Logan Pearsall Smith’s dictum, ‘People say that life’s the thing, but I prefer reading’. Kien’s housekeeper Therese is seemingly the dedicated guardian of his library, the biggest in bookish Vienna; but when the bibliomaniac marries her, she becomes a termagant who eventually deprives him of contact with his one true love.

Since the principal victims of the original Inquisition’s auto-da-fe were Jews, it calls for no great wit to see Kien’s fate as emblematic of the impending destiny of the People of the Book whom ‘Aryan’ racial vanity – the inferiority complex in Boss uniform – would eliminate from the central European scene which they had done so much to enlighten. Canetti was the augur of the imminent collapse of the delusion that literacy is a reliable barrier against barbarism (music, as Wagner proved, makes no such promises). Nazi ‘philosophers’ and Stalinist ideologists soon established that addled reason and parodic scholarship could supply a warrant for mass murder. Straight philosophers, Kant and Schopenhauer among them, had already flirted with the systematic anti­Semitism which most German historians, Theodor Mommsen not least, repudiated. Karl Marx proved his emancipation from antique loyalties by a show of detached disgust with ‘the huckster race’.

Socialist anti-Semitism derives from these lethal schematics. Does ...

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