Friday, May 18, 2007

Elias Canetti und ich

Elias Canetti was born in 1905 in Ruse, on the shores of the Black Sea.
I was born in 1970 in Riga, on the shores of the Baltic Sea.

When Canetti was little, he spoke Ladino (at home), Bulgarian (in Ruse), English (in the UK where his parents lived for a while), and French (he learned it at school).
When I was little, I spoke Russian (at home). I then began speaking Latvian (as I went to ballet classes). I was forced to learn English (at school, where it was taught with a pronounced Russian accent I still cannot get rid of and where I was repeatedly told I was no good at it).

By the time Canetti went to University, German became his language of choice. He wrote all his books in German and received the Nobel Prize for it.

By the time I went to University, I had heard so much German at home, spoken by my mother when she did not want me to understand the conversation, that I decided to learn it. After spending a week with a grammar primer and doing der die das, I decided it was die hoechste Zeit to read a book. I chose Goethe's Faust. My mother refused to cooperate.

Many years later, I still remember the opening lines by heart. I have read many books in German -- although none by Canetti, but I have never learned the language properly.

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