Haunted Reflections

Walter Benjamin in San Francisco

SOURCE MATERIALS:

 

Books about Walter Benjamin:

 

Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life 

By Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings 

Belknap/Harvard - Hardcover - $39.95

ISBN 9780674051867

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Howard Eiland and Michael Jennings make available for the first time a rich store of information which augments and corrects the record of an extraordinary life. They offer a comprehensive portrait of Benjamin and his times as well as extensive commentaries on his major works.

 

Walter Benjamin: An Introduction to his Work And Thought

By Uwe Steiner  (Translated by Michael Winkler)

University Of Chicago - Softcover - $27.50

ISBN 9780226772226

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Uwe Steiner traces the development of Benjamin’s thought chronologically through his writings on philosophy, literature, history, politics, the media, art, photography, cinema, technology, and theology. Walter Benjamin reveals the essential coherence of its subject’s thinking while also analyzing the controversial or puzzling facets of Benjamin’s work. That coherence, Steiner contends, can best be appreciated by placing Benjamin in his proper context as a member of the German philosophical tradition and a participant in contemporary intellectual debates.

 

Books by Walter Benjamin:

 

Illuminations: Essays and Reflections

By Walter Benjamin

Random House - Softcover - $16.00

ISBN 9780805202410

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An excellent place to begin delving into the work of Walter Benjamin. Illuminations includes Benjamin's views on Kafka, with whom he felt a close personal affinity; his studies on Baudelaire and Proust; and his essays on Leskov and on Brecht's Epic Theater. Also included are his penetrating study "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," an enlightening discussion of translation as a literary mode, and Benjamin's theses on the philosophy of history. Hannah Arendt selected the essays for this volume and introduces them.

 

Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings

By Walter Benjamin

Random House - Softcover - $16.00

ISBN 9780805208023

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A companion volume to Illuminations, the first collection of Walter Benjamin's writings, Reflections presents a further sampling of his wide-ranging work. Here Benjamin evolves a theory of language as the medium of all creation, discusses theater and surrealism, reminisces about Berlin in the 1920s, recalls conversations with Bertolt Brecht, and provides travelogues of various cities, including Moscow under Stalin. He moves seamlessly from literary criticism to autobiography to philosophical-theological speculations, cementing his reputation as one of the greatest and most versatile writers of the twentieth century.

 

The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility

By Walter Benjamin (Edited by Michael W. Jennings, Brigid Doherty, and Thomas Y. Levin)

Belknap/Harvard University Press - Softcover -$20.00

ISBN 9780674024458

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This one-volume gathering of Benjamin’s dialectical writing on media of all kinds, ranging from children’s literature to cinema, has at its heart the second, most expansive version of his path-breaking essay ’The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility.’ Readers familiar only with partial versions of this piece, where Benjamin began to record the melancholy loss of aesthetic presence at the turn of the twentieth century, will find their understanding transformed-- for this second version, like all the essays and supplemental texts included here, explores a set of latent, utopian possibilities inherent in mechanical means of art-making. Benjamin, the visionary magus of particulars, reveals profoundly, and repeatedly, both the grounds and the consequences of our ever-changing image of the made world.—Susan Stewart

 

The Arcades Project

By Walter Benjamin (Edited by Rolf Tiederman, Translated by Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin)

Belknap/Harvard University Press - Softcover -$35.00

ISBN 9780674008

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Focusing on the arcades of nineteenth-century Paris—glass-roofed rows of shops that were early centers of consumerism—Benjamin presents a montage of quotations from, and reflections on, hundreds of published sources, arranging them in 36 categories with descriptive rubrics such as “Fashion,” “Boredom,” “Dream City,” “Photography,” “Catacombs,” “Advertising,” “Prostitution,” “Baudelaire,” and “Theory of Progress.” His central preoccupation is what he calls the commodification of things—a process in which he locates the decisive shift to the modern age.

The Arcades Project is Benjamin’s effort to represent and to critique the bourgeois experience of nineteenth-century history, and, in so doing, to liberate the suppressed “true history” that underlay the ideological mask. In the bustling, cluttered arcades, street and interior merge and historical time is broken up into kaleidoscopic distractions and displays of ephemera. Here, at a distance from what is normally meant by “progress,” Benjamin finds the lost time(s) embedded in the spaces of things.

 

 

Berlin Childhood around 1900

By Walter Benjamin (Translated by Howard Eiland)

Belknap/Harvard University Press - Softcover -$17.50

ISBN 9780674022225

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Begun in Poveromo, Italy, in 1932, and extensively revised in 1938, Berlin Childhood around 1900 remained unpublished during Walter Benjamin’s lifetime, one of his “large-scale defeats.” Now translated into English for the first time in book form, on the basis of the recently discovered “final version” that contains the author’s own arrangement of a suite of luminous vignettes, it can be more widely appreciated as one of the masterpieces of twentieth-century prose writing.

Not an autobiography in the customary sense, Benjamin’s recollection of his childhood in an upper-middle-class Jewish home in Berlin’s West End at the turn of the century becomes an occasion for unified “expeditions into the depths of memory.” In this diagram of his life, Benjamin focuses not on persons or events but on places and things, all seen from the perspective of a child—a collector, flâneur, and allegorist in one.

 

The Complete Correspondence of Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin, 1928-1940

By Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno (Translated by Nicholas Walker)

Belknap/Harvard University Press - Softcover -$42.00

ISBN 9780674006898

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The correspondence between Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno, which appears here for the first time in its entirety in English translation, must rank among the most significant to have come down to us from that notable age of barbarism, the twentieth century. Benjamin and Adorno formed a uniquely powerful pair. Benjamin, riddle-like in his personality and given to tactical evasion, and Adorno, full of his own importance, alternately support and compete with each other throughout the correspondence, until its imminent tragic end becomes apparent to both writers. Each had met his match, and happily, in the other. This book is the story of an elective affinity. Adorno was the only person who managed to sustain an intimate intellectual relationship with Benjamin for nearly twenty years. No one else, not even Gershom Scholem, coaxed so much out of Benjamin.

The more than one hundred letters in this book will allow readers to trace the developing character of Benjamin’s and Adorno’s attitudes toward each other and toward their many friends.

 

Moscow Diary

By Walter Benjamin (Translated by Richard Sieburth, Preface by Gershom Scholem, Edited by Gary Smith)

Belknap/Harvard University Press - Softcover -$29.50

ISBN 9780674587441

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A stunning account of Benjamin's travels to the Soviet Union. Benjamin had journeyed to Russia not only to inform himself firsthand about Soviet society, but also to arrive at an eventual decision about joining the Communist Party. Benjamin’s diary paints the dilemma of a writer seduced by the promises of the Revolution yet unwilling to blinker himself to its human and institutional failings. This  journal is unique among Benjamin’s writings for the frank, merciless way he struggles with his motives and conscience.

 

Walter Benjamin/Selected Writings Vol 1 / 1913-1926

By Walter Benjamin (Edited by Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings)

Belknap/Harvard University Press - Softcover -$29.50

ISBN ISBN 9780674013551

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Volume I of the Selected Writings brings together essays long and short, academic treatises, reviews, fragments, and privately circulated pronouncements. Fully five-sixths of this material has never before been translated into English. The contents begin in 1913, when Benjamin, as an undergraduate in imperial Germany, was president of a radical youth group, and take us through 1926, when he had already begun, with his explorations of the world of mass culture, to emerge as a critical voice in Weimar Germany’s most influential journals.

 

Walter Benjamin/Selected Writings Vol 2 Part 1 / 1927-1930

By Walter Benjamin (Edited by Michael W. Jennings, Howard Eiland, and Gary Smith)

Belknap/Harvard University Press - Softcover -$27.00

ISBN 9780674015883

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In Selected Writings Vol 2 Part 1, Benjamin is represented by two of his greatest literary essays, “Surrealism” and “On the Image of Proust,” as well as by a long article on Goethe and a generous selection of his wide-ranging commentary for Weimar Germany’s newspapers.

 

 

Walter Benjamin/Selected Writings Vol 2 Part 2 / 1931-1934

By Walter Benjamin (Edited by Michael W. Jennings, Howard Eiland, and Gary Smith)

Belknap/Harvard University Press - Softcover -$27.50

ISBN 9780674017467

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Selected Writings Vol 2 Part 1 contains, in addition to the important longer essays (“Franz Kafka,” “Karl Kraus,” and “The Author as Producer”) the extended autobiographical meditation “A Berlin Chronicle”; extended discussions of the history of photography and the social situation of the French writer; and previously untranslated shorter pieces on such subjects as language and memory, theological criticism and literary history, astrology, and the newspaper, and on such influential figures as Paul Valery, Stefan George, Hitler, and Mickey Mouse.

 

Walter Benjamin/Selected Writings Vol 3 / 1935-1938

By Walter Benjamin (Edited by Michael W. Jennings and Howard Eiland)

Belknap/Harvard University Press - Softcover -$26.00

ISBN 9780674019812

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Volume 3 offers 27 brilliant pieces, 19 of which have never before been translated. The centerpiece, A Berlin Childhood around 1900, marks the first appearance in English of one of the greatest German works of the twentieth century: a profound and beautiful account of the vanished world of Benjamin’s privileged boyhood, recollected in exile. No less remarkable are the previously untranslated second version of Benjamin’s most famous essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility,” with its striking insights into the relations between technology and aesthetics, and German Men and Women, a book in which Benjamin collects 26 letters by distinguished Germans from 1783 to 1883 in an effort to preserve what he called the true humanity of German tradition from the debasement of fascism.

Volume 3 also offers extensively annotated translations of essays that are key to Benjamin’s rewriting of the story of modernism and modernity, such as “The Storyteller” and “Paris, the Capital of the Nineteenth Century”—as well as a fascinating diary from 1938 and penetrating studies of Bertolt Brecht, Franz Kafka, and Eduard Fuchs. A narrative chronology details Benjamin’s life during these four harrowing years of his exile in France and Denmark. This is an essential collection for anyone interested in his work.

 

Walter Benjamin/Selected Writings Vol 3 / 1938-1940

By Walter Benjamin (Edited by  Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings)

Belknap/Harvard University Press - Softcover -$27.50

ISBN 9780674022294

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This volume ranges from studies of Baudelaire, Brecht, and the historian Carl Jochmann to appraisals of photography, film, and poetry. At their core is the question of how art can survive and thrive in a tumultuous time. Here we see Benjamin laying out an ethic for the critic and artist—a subdued but resilient heroism. At the same time, he was setting forth a sociohistorical account of how art adapts in an age of violence and repression.

Working at the height of his powers to the very end, Benjamin refined his theory of the mass media that culminated in the final version of his essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility.” Also included in this volume is his influential piece “On the Concept of History,” completed just before his death. The book is remarkable for its inquiry into the nature of “the modern” (especially as revealed in Baudelaire), for its ideas about the transmogrification of art and the radical discontinuities of history, and for its examples of humane life and thought in the midst of barbarism. The entire collection is eloquent testimony to the indomitable spirit of humanity under siege.