The Book Against Death (Paperback)

The Book Against Death By Elias Canetti, Peter Filkins (Translated by), Joshua Cohen (Introduction by) Cover Image
By Elias Canetti, Peter Filkins (Translated by), Joshua Cohen (Introduction by)


The Nobel Prize winner Elias Canetti all his life declared himself a “mortal enemy” of death—and here, in English at last, is his landmark book on the subject

The Book Against Death is the work of a lifetime: a collection of Elias Canetti’s powerful, disarming, and often bleakly comic observations, diatribes, musings, and commentaries on and against death. Evoking despair, melancholy, and fury, Canetti examines the inevitable demise of all beings—from the ant, the fish, and the worm to an executioner, a court painter, and a Greek god—while fiercely protesting the mass deaths incurred during war and the willingness of the despot to wield death as power. Interspersed with material from philosophers and writers such as Goethe, Walter Benjamin, and Robert Walser, The Book Against Death is ultimately a moving affirmation of the value of life itself. 

Canetti famously refused to die before he’d read all his obituaries and corrected them.

“I accept no death.”—Elias Canetti (1905–1994)

About the Author

Elias Canetti was born in 1905 into a Sephardi Jewish family in Ruse, Bulgaria. He moved to Vienna in 1924, where he became involved in literary circles while studying for a degree in chemistry. He remained in Vienna until the Anschluss, when he emigrated to England and later to Switzerland, where he died in 1994. In 1981, Canetti was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for “writings marked by a broad outlook, a wealth of ideas, and artistic power.” His best-known works include his trilogy of memoirs The Tongue Set Free, The Torch in My Ear, The Play of the Eyes, and The Party in the Blitz; the novel Auto-da-Fé; and the nonfiction book Crowds and Power.

Peter Filkins is the translator of Ingeborg Bachmann’s collected poems, Darkness Spoken, as well as three novels by H. G. Adler, The Journey, Panorama, and The Wall. He published a biography, H. G. Adler: A Life in Many Worlds, in 2019. Filkins’s fifth collection of poems, Water / Music, appeared in 2021. He teaches at Bard College.

Joshua Cohen was born in 1980 in Atlantic City. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction 2022 for The Netanyahus: An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family. He lives in New York City.

Praise For…

Rarely has anyone been so at home in the mind, with so little ambivalence. Far from being a source of complacency, this attitude is Canetti’s great strength… [He] is someone who has felt in a profound way the responsibility of words… His work eloquently and nobly defends tension, exertion, moral and amoral seriousness.
— Susan Sontag - The New York Review of Books

Canetti invites—indeed, compels—judgment. His exacting presence honors literature.
— George Steiner - The New Yorker

Canetti led his life without compromise, fear, or guilt, and [reading him is] like discovering, without warning, a complex and satisfying work of art.
— David Denby - The New Yorker

Even twenty years after his death, one thing is certain: Elias Canetti is alive and kicking.
— Tobias Schwartz - Der Tagesspiegel

His style is suave yet enrapturing, his memory and attention to detail simply extraordinary … One feels that in Canetti, modern European culture found its ultimate keeper.
— Ilan Stavans - Forward

Product Details
ISBN: 9780811237994
ISBN-10: 0811237990
Publisher: New Directions
Publication Date: May 14th, 2024
Pages: 432
Language: English