Editor’s note: Elias Canetti was twenty-three years old when he came to Berlin to spend the summer of 1928. In Vienna, where he was studying chemistry and writing poetry, he had fallen under the spell of Karl Kraus. This formidable moralist was a radical pacifist whose fiercely irreverent journal, Die Fackel (The Torch), written entirely by himself, was then at the zenith of its influence on young and rebellious spirits. In Vienna, the young Canetti had also formed a close attachment to two young women—identified here as Veza and Ibby—whom he admired for their personal independence as well as their advanced literary interests. It was at the urging of the latter—a Hungarian poet whose work Canetti had helped to translate into German—that he decided to spend his summer holiday in Berlin, when she had gone to live.

“My curiosity grew with each of her letters,” Canetti has written of this episode....


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