Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life by Howard Eiland, Michael William Jennings

By Howard Eiland, Michael William Jennings

Walter Benjamin is among the 20th century's most vital intellectuals, and likewise considered one of its so much elusive. His writings--mosaics incorporating philosophy, literary feedback, Marxist research, and a syncretistic theology--defy easy categorization. And his cellular, usually improvised lifestyles has confirmed impossible to resist to mythologizers. His writing occupation moved from the intense esotericism of his early writings via his emergence as a significant voice in Weimar tradition and directly to the exile years, with its pioneering reports of recent media and the increase of city commodity capitalism in Paris. That profession used to be performed out amid probably the most catastrophic many years of contemporary ecu heritage: the horror of the 1st international struggle, the turbulence of the Weimar Republic, and the lengthening shadow of fascism. Now, a tremendous new biography from of the world's most appropriate Benjamin students reaches past the mosaic and the legendary to offer this interesting determine in full.

Howard Eiland and Michael Jennings make on hand for the 1st time a wealthy shop of data which augments and corrects the checklist of a unprecedented existence. they provide a accomplished portrait of Benjamin and his instances in addition to huge commentaries on his significant works, together with "The murals within the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility," the essays on Baudelaire, and the nice research of the German Trauerspiel. absolute to turn into the normal reference biography of this seminal philosopher, Walter Benjamin: A severe lifestyles will end up a resource of inexhaustible curiosity for Benjamin students and rookies alike.

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Having graduated from the Kaiser Friedrich School in March, Benjamin was soon back in the good graces of his father, it would 30 Walter Benjamin seem, for he was able to undertake an extended tour of Italy—including the cities of Como, Milan, Verona, Vicenza, Venice, and Padua— over the Pentecost holiday (May 24– June 15). Before this, he had always taken trips in the company of his family. We have accounts of such trips to Switzerland, taken in the summers of 1910 and 1911, in his first letters to Herbert Belmore; these are high-spirited letters filled with literary parodies and reports and judgments on his reading, which ranged from Fritz Mauthner’s theory of language to Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

He received instruction from private tutors until he was nearly nine, initially in a little circle of children from wealthy homes. His fi rst teacher, Helene Pufahl, is memorialized with affectionate humor at the beginning of the section “Two Enigmas” in Berlin Childhood around 1900. Late in life, Benjamin still had in his possession a picture postcard with “the beautiful clear signature: Helene Pufahl . . The ‘p’ at the beginning was the ‘p’ of perseverance, of punctuality, of prizewinning performance; ‘f’ stood for faithful, fruitful, free of errors; and as for the ‘l’ at the end, it was the figure of lamblike piety and love of learning” (SW, 3:359).

And this solitude, the deeper sort, we can expect only from a perfect community. . The conditions for solitude among people [Einsamkeit unter Menschen], with which so few are familiar nowadays, have yet to be created. (C, 50) He gives a hint of what he has in mind in referring to the “conditions” for the deep solitude in community, for the ideal shattering of what is “all too human,” in another letter from this period (summer 1913), where he speaks of his feeling “that all our humanity is a sacrifice to the spirit,” and of tolerating therefore no private interests of any kind, “no private feelings, no private will and intellect” (C, 35).

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