Walter Benjamin (Critical Lives)

By Esther Leslie

Drawing upon a wealth of magazine writings and private correspondence, Esther Leslie offers a uniquely intimate portrait of 1 of the highbrow giants of the 20th century, Walter Benjamin. She units his lifestyles within the context of his middle-class upbringing; explores the social, political, and financial upheaval in Germany in the course of and after international struggle I; and recounts Benjamin’s eccentric love of toys, trick-books, commute, and ships. From the Frankfurt university and his influential friendships with Theodore Adorno, Gershom Scholem, and Bertolt Brecht, to his travels throughout Europe, Walter Benjamin lines out the roots of Benjamin’s groundbreaking writings and their far-reaching effect in his personal time. Leslie argues that Benjamin’s existence demanding situations the stereotypical narrative of the tragic and lonely highbrow figure—instead positioning him as a guy who relished the fierce wrestle of competing theories and ideas.
Closing along with his dying on the Spanish-French border in a determined flight from the Nazis and Stalin, Walter Benjamin is a concise and targeted account of a capacious mind trapped by means of antagonistic circumstances.

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He was once skinny and vulnerable. the United States loomed greater. A moment choice was once to visit London, the place his former spouse was hoping to open a boarding condominium. Gretel Adorno wrote to him in English emphasizing how crucial it used to be to understand the language within the us, as Ernst Bloch had figured out to his detriment. eighty three Benjamin vowed to profit English. He utilized to affix the German émigré component of PEN. In ownership of a letter from the nationwide Refugee provider containing files for the visa program submitted through Milton Starr of Nashville, Tennessee, Benjamin hesitated handy it to the consulate. He used to be connected to France, socially and – crucially – intellectually: for him, ‘nothing on the planet may well exchange the Bibliothèque nationale’. eighty four yet warfare was once altering Paris and inflexible ideas have been being imposed. He requested for Horkheimer’s perspectives at the topic. the answer, on 10 January 1940, counselled that there has been a massive backlog of immigration visas to be processed. it can take months, Horkheimer warned. He additionally made transparent that Benjamin’s stipend within the us will be not more than in France, which might ‘signify massive privation’, even though this is able to be compensated by way of the lifestyles of his partners and associates. eighty five On eleven January 1940 Benjamin’s letter to Scholem declared ‘Every line that we be able to get into print this present day – given how doubtful our destiny is – is a victory wrung from the forces of darkness’. 86 ‘On a few Motifs in Baudelaire’ and ‘“The Regression of Poetry”’ by way of Carl Gustav Jochmann’ seemed in a double-issue of the Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung first and foremost of 1940. different efforts have been misplaced to the darkness. He wrote a evaluate of Henri-Irénée Marrou’s Saint Augustin and the tip of vintage tradition. The doctoral thesis thought of Roman decadence in highbrow issues and Augustine as a lettré de los angeles decadence, a subject matter that had lengthy involved Benjamin. Marrou made connection with one in every of Benjamin’s earliest mentors, Alois Riegl and his overdue Roman paintings of 1901. Evoking one other topic on the subject of Benjamin, Marrou awarded St Augustine’s allegorical exposition of the Bible, a ‘sacral philology’, within which the Bible’s loci ‘(like the overdetermined parts of the dream in Freud) have been in a position to , 3 or extra interpretations’. 87 The overview, which evidenced the consistency of Benjamin’s fascinations over two decades, used to be now not released. within the letter to Scholem of eleven January, Benjamin famous Scholem’s wish to ‘preserve what we carry in common’, and commented that provisions have been greater for this than 25 years in the past. there has been no cause from now on for fiery arguments:88 these days had handed. The numbers of these, he famous, who may perhaps get their bearings during this international was once shrinking speedily. Benjamin was once no longer one. He was once remoted. the days, his kingdom of future health, the final country of items intended that he stayed at domestic. His condominium was once heated, even though no longer rather adequate to permit him to put in writing if the temperature outdoors used to be low. He loved brief conferences along with his former spouse, whose reviews on Stefan’s growth weren't very beneficial, but additionally no longer a reason for alarm.

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