Download Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life by Howard Eiland PDF

By Howard Eiland

Walter Benjamin is among the 20th century's most vital intellectuals, and likewise one in all its such a lot elusive. His writings--mosaics incorporating philosophy, literary feedback, Marxist research, and a syncretistic theology--defy easy categorization. And his cellular, usually improvised life has confirmed impossible to resist to mythologizers. His writing occupation moved from the intense esotericism of his early writings via his emergence as a valuable 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 was once performed out amid one of the most catastrophic many years of recent eu background: the horror of the 1st international warfare, the turbulence of the Weimar Republic, and the lengthening shadow of fascism. Now, a big new biography from of the world's optimal Benjamin students reaches past the mosaic and the legendary to provide this fascinating 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 lifestyles. they give a complete portrait of Benjamin and his instances in addition to large 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. bound to turn into the traditional reference biography of this seminal thinker, Walter Benjamin: A serious Life will turn out a resource of inexhaustible curiosity for Benjamin students and rookies alike.

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Sample text

It was characteristic of Benjamin in the face of existential unmooring and immersion to affirm a principle of sobriety. Benjamin’s metaphysically oriented sense of the social was nourished to some degree by his university studies that fall and winter. Enrolling in philosophy at the Friedrich Wilhelm University, where, Metaphysics of Youth 49 in October 1912, he began the fi rst of five (nonconsecutive) semesters in Berlin, he attended lectures by the distinguished philosophical sociologist Georg Simmel.

The need for a new youth to lead the way to revolutionary cultural change is the main theme of all Benjamin’s publications as a student, if not of his writings as a whole, over the next three years. The years of Benjamin’s involvement with Der Anfang also saw his fi rst contacts with an avant-garde cenacle, the Neue Club (New Club), a circle of proto-Expressionist writers that was in existence between 1909 and 1914 in Berlin, where readings were presented in the so-called Neopathetisches Cabaret evenings orga nized by the club.

The early confrontation with Zionism was thus a function of his newfound interest in Jewishness as a vital and historically complex problem. In a letter to Martin Buber some three years later, he would write: “The problem of the Jewish spirit is one of the most important and persistent objects of my thinking” (GB, 1:283). He earlier carried on his inquiry into the matter with a fellow Freiburg student, Ludwig Strauß, whom he had met through Phillip Keller. Already an accomplished poet and later, after marrying Buber’s daughter, a literary historian at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Strauß was part of the Expressionist circle around the poet and dramatist Walter Hasenclever.

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