I quite enjoyed Elias Canetti’s Die Stimmen von Marrakesch and after writing about it here, a reader recommended to read Die Blendung next which is a proper novel. So I put it on my amazon wishlist last summer… and then forgot about it because I still had plenty to read around anyway. But my friends came across the wishlist and then gave me a copy for my birthday. I really love those presents as I usually forget about my wishlist, so it’s a bit of a surprise, and yet it’s something I really want.
And both the recommendation and the present were good ones. Die Blendung is an excellent book! I doubt I could do the book justice with a description of what happens in there. So I’ll just say it starts with a brilliant sinologist Peter Kien who lives in his huge private library in Wien and likes to ignore the rest of the world so he can focus on his research. In the book’s three parts
A Head without World,
Headless world and
World in the head we see him losing his home and library to his wife, then trusting a greedy small time crook while looking for revenge and eventually going all crazy until his beloved library burns.
The book does an excellent job (better than university, I’d say) at showing us how close brilliance and insanity can be. How important it can be to be able to handle mundane tasks. How people are driven by greed (mostly for money and some for knowledge) and will do anything to satisfy it. And how everybody is a liar.
In fact, the book is a pain to read at times. Following the story you’ll just see that things will go wrong and you have to watch them go wrong without being able to interfere. The protagonist doesn’t see any problems and just walks straight on to being cheated and further to insanity. Particularly when Kien is overpowered by his nasty wife around the end of the book’s first part I found this almost unbearable and had to have a reading hiatus of a few weeks. No pain, no gain, as they say.