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This review is taken from PN Review 84, Volume 18 Number 4, March - April 1992.

A STRIKE AGAINST THE HEAD Elias Canetti, The Secret Heart of the Clock translated by Joel Agee (André Deutsch) £12.99

The notebook entry from which Canetti has taken the title for his sequel to The Human Province is not in itself an item which would otherwise have assumed any prominence. To be pulled up short by 'Unseen by all, the secret heart of the clock' is to reflect that, at a literal level, even an exposed mainspring retains its enigmas, and that figuratively time remains a mystery. In the terms offered by Canetti's catch-all subtitle - 'Notes, Aphorisms, Fragments 1973-85' - this is at once too freighted to be a fragment, and too trite to be thought an aphorism, and so must presumably be classified as a 'note', albeit primus inter pares insofar as it designates, or it may be epitomizes, what has been gathered between the covers of a book. At the same time an echo of sorts seems to align this compilation with such previous Canetti enterprises as The Play of the Eyes and The Conscience of Words, and hence by extension to summon up a whole oeuvre, a body of work still perhaps less familiar than might be expected of a relatively recent Nobel prizewinner. In such a context new possibilities emerge, to cluster around 'heart', though Canetti has more commonly been taken to possess a mind rather than a heart, and though even his detractors have been reluctant to invoke the implacable indifference of machinery in estimates of his demerits. There is clearly - with all the evidence weighed together - a sense in which ...


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