person:walter benjamin

  • Fabula, la recherche en littérature
    http://www.fabula.org

    AUTOUR DE WALTER BENJAMIN

    Un philosophe-traducteur, un historien, un archiviste et une chercheuse en lettres se sont réunis pour discuter de l’enfance selon Walter Benjamin : que les textes du recueil Sens unique soient rendus à l’océan de tous les livres, c’est-à-dire à toute la littérature (c’est ce que Jacques Derrida — grand lecteur de Benjamin en son temps — désirait pour la philosophie). Pour tous les etudiants qui préparent l’agrégation de Lettres modernes, et pour tous ceux que la pensée de Benjamin continue d’inspirer, nous sommes heureux de publier la journée d’étude « Enfance. Autour de Walter Benjamin » dans les pages colloques en ligne de Fabula.

    (par DD, alias Arthemis Johnson)

    #colloque
    #Benjamin


  • Walter Benjamin : Fascism and Crisis | Ceasefire Magazine
    http://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/walter-benjamin-fascism-crisis

    To outsiders, the national temperament seems to have become barbaric and violent in an incomprehensible way. According to Benjamin, this appearance – invisible to those within the process – occurs because people are wholly subordinated, to ‘circumstances, squalor and stupidity’, to collective forces. The sense of any right to live individually has disappeared. People also develop a ‘frenetic hatred of the life of the mind’. They annihilate it through forming ranks, counting bodies and advancing.

    #fascisme


  • Ultra-red, Five Protocols for Organized Listening (2012) sur #Monoskop
    http://monoskop.org/log/?p=8663

    This workbook contains five categories of protocols for collectively performed listening procedures composed and studied by the international sound art collective, Ultra-red. Scanning the workbook readers will notice that the categories are not equivalent in status. For example, the category of fieldwork protocols marks a phase in a politically committed sound inquiry; what Ultra-red has termed, militant sound investigation. While fieldwork occurs as part of an overall strategy, sound walks and listening sessions can prove as generative in the early phases of collective reflection as when a group moves from refection to critical analysis.

    http://www.ultrared.org/uploads/2012-Five_Protocols.pdf [#pdf]

    #Ultra-red, donc, c’est un collectif qui utilise le son pour #militer
    http://www.ultrared.org/directory.html

    Ils ont la fâcheuse habitude d’utiliser des sites fort peu recommandables pour diffuser certains de leurs travaux (facebook, myspace), mais le bon goût de mettre leurs archives sonores sur le site Public Record, qui se définit de la manière suivante
    http://www.publicrec.org/directory.html

    sound political art, and the sound of our politics

    In an increasingly conservative climate within electronic music and the audio arts, Public Record remains committed to releasing projects that do more than make political claims or represent political ideas. Like the Ultra-red organization itself, Public Record provides a space for exchange between artists and audiences of art directly engaging the political.

    The German art critic Walter Benjamin once rebuked the Surrealists, demanding that artists who assume the mantle of revolutionaries would do better engaging actual political struggles than promoting their individual artistic careers. Benjamin challenges artists to pursue sustained and committed relationships with social movements.

    Conversely, simply listening to political movements poses its own inadequacies. Convention and territorialism inflict many political organizers producing tendencies that result in stagnation. Leadership too often becomes a claim to power rather than a participatory process.

    http://www.publicrec.org/img/nomusicheader.gif

    On trouve notamment sur Public Record leurs enquêtes collectives sur la guerre contre les pauvres (souvent un peu trop abstrait ou, paradoxalement, arty à mes oreilles : on pourrait attendre autre chose sur le sujet, mais il faut dire que la contrainte formelle d’une minute encourage l’abstraction)
    http://www.publicrec.org/archive/2-06/2-06downloads.html

    Ultra-red asks fifteen artists and activists to come up with a one-minute audio recording in response to the question: What is the sound of the war on the poor? The results range from field recordings, re-appropriated sounds, mini-symphonies and spoken rants.

    Par exemple, dans l’enquête n°1 : Adern X (Pistoia)
    http://www.publicrec.org/archive/2-06/2-06-004/2-06-004-15.mp3

    #audio #art #politique #écoute_collective


  • #Walter_Benjamin et #Theodor_W._Adorno. Critique salvatrice et #Utopie.
    http://www.larevuedesressources.org/walter-benjamin-et-theodor-w-adorno-critique-salvatrice-et-uto

    Les grands novateurs de l’#Essai au #XXe_siècle qui influencèrent la postmodernité et renouvelèrent l’essai sur l’art, du moins ce qu’on en pense généralement, furent principalement, excepté Georg Lukács, les théoriciens sociologues du mouvement de l’école de Francfort, ainsi nommé à cause du projet marxiste de l’Institut de recherche sociale fondé en 1923 dans cette ville, qui les rassembla jusqu’à sa fermeture par le pouvoir nazi en 1933 (en fait un ajournement car le mouvement poursuivra son activité à (...)

    #Friedrich_Wilhelm_Nietzsche #Sociologie #Franz_Kafka #Millénarisme #Métaphysique #Christian_Schärf # Sonia_Goldblum #Traçés #École_de_Francfort #ENS_Éditions #Montaigne


  • Grèce : l’antisémitisme fait-il la loi ?
    http://blogs.mediapart.fr/blog/michael-lowy/020713/grece-l-antisemitisme-fait-il-la-loi

    A propos de Savas Mikhail, philosophe grec dans la lignée de Walter Benjamin et d’Ernst Bloch...Et les dernières turpitudes, parmi tant d’autres, de Samaras et de sa clique.

    L’affaire illustre non seulement l’extraordinaire culot des Messieurs de l’« Aube Dorée », mais aussi la complicité, de plus en plus évidente, de l’actuel gouvernement grec, présidé par Antonis Samaras, avec les fascistes grecs. Plusieurs Ministres de ce gouvernement de plus en plus autoritaire et répressif, sont originaires de l’extrême droite ; le secretaire d’Etat à l’immigration, Kostoulas, est l’auteur d’un ouvrage négationniste à la gloire du Troisième Reich, et son porte parole au Parlement, le député Makis Voridis, est un ami de Jean-Marie Le Pen et un ancien dirigeant du mouvement de jeunesse nationaliste promu par la dictature du Colonel Papadopoulos (1967-1974). Par ailleurs, la récente décision d’Antonis Samaras de fermer pure et simplement l’ERT, la radiotélévision publique grecque, en coupant le courant à ses antennes - décision qui a provoqué un crise gouvernementale, avec le départ du parti Gauche Démocratique - a été chaleureusement soutenue par Chryssi Avghi.

    #Grèce #Aube_dorée #fascisme


  • Tant qu’il y aura des dominants et des dominés « la lutte des classes » aura un avenir infini...
    À bientôt j’espère (1967-1968) un film de Chris Marker et Mariot Marret
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pswaIh0Qa-g

    http://www.dvdclassik.com/critique/a-bientot-j-espere-marker-marret

    Marker filme la grève dans la filature de #Rhodiaceta (groupe Rhônes-Poulenc) de #Besançon en 1967, à la demande de #Pol_Cèbe, #bibliothécaire de l’usine. Cèbe envisage un projet où les ouvriers pourraient prendre en main leur #émancipation par la #réappropriation d’une #culture détenue par la #bourgeoisie. Ses préoccupations rencontrent celles de Marker et Marret qui désirent reproduire l’#expérience du ciné-train du cinéaste #Medvedkine. En 1932, le #réalisateur russe parcourait l’U.R.S.S. à bord d’un train, filmait les ouvriers et leur montrait juste après montage dans la journée le résultat. Application des théories de #Walter_Benjamin (1), l’idée était alors de permettre aux ouvriers de se #voir au #travail, de leur #donner les #outils pour l’#améliorer, bref #construire la nouvelle Russie. La méthode est directement issue de la première période du #cinéma où des #cinéastes itinérants allaient de ville en ville filmer les sorties d’usines et montrer le soir même aux habitants le résultat. Les gens se déplaçaient en masse, heureux de se voir, de voir leurs voisins, leurs amis. Medvedkine dépasse le simple #spectacle #mercantile dans une optique #politique et #sociale, un outil de #propagande au service d’un nouvel #idéal. Marker et Marret décident donc de prolonger cette expérience. Leur idée consiste à filmer au plus près le travail des ouvriers, leur mode de vie, de manière à leur faire #appréhender leurs #spécificités, leur culture, leur mode de vie. Et leur donner les outils pour changer leur condition. Tout commence avec un appel lancé à Marker par René Berchoud, secrétaire du CCPPO (voir bonus). Il l’enjoint de venir à #Rhodia car quelque chose s’y passe d’important. Déjà en #1936, les grandes #grèves démarrèrent dans les filatures du Jura et Berchoud sent qu’il n’assiste pas seulement à une grève, mais à une prise de #conscience. Une projection de Loin du Vietnam vient d’y être organisée, et ce pamphlet collectif a profondément marqué les ouvriers de l’usine. Pas seulement parce que c’est la première fois qu’une avant première est dédiée aux travailleurs, mais également car à travers ce travail, une idée se profile…

    Marker et Marret tournent alors #A_bientôt _j’espère, dont le titre même évoque quelque chose qui prend #corps. Dans ce #reportage sur la grève de la Rhodiaceta (groupe Rhônes-Poulec), les ouvriers se livrent, peut-être pour la première fois, devant la #caméra. Leurs revendications portent non sur les #salaires, mais plus généralement sur leur #qualité de #vie, et surtout sur l’accès à une #culture qui jusqu’ici leur paraissait impossible. Des paroles qui annoncent #Mai #68. A l’origine, le mouvement naît des menaces de licenciement qui pèsent sur les 14000 ouvriers du #groupe. Les paroles des #dirigeants résonnent bizarrement dans notre #société actuelle. Ils se réfugient déjà derrière le marché commun, expliquant que les #suppressions d’#emploi ne sont pas de leur fait, mais leur sont imposées par des forces extérieures. A bientôt j’espère s’ouvre sur l’image d’ouvriers qui, Noël approchant, choisissent des sapins. C’est bien en quelque sorte la #fête qui va marquer la fin du mouvement, les ouvriers voulant, malgré tout, pouvoir offrir des cadeaux à leurs enfants. Si l’ouverture annonce la fin du film, elle enchaîne immédiatement sur un #meeting qui s’improvise sous la neige, annonçant d’emblée que malgré la fin abrupte du mouvement, il y a quelque chose qui en naît et qui se poursuivra.

    #luttes_Des_classes #Usine #Taylorisme #Ouvriers#prolétariat #Capitalisme #Communisme #Culture #Peuples #Exploitation #Domination #Groupes_Medvedkine #Chris_Marker #Mario_Marret #Alexandre_Medvedkine #Pol_Cèbe #Documentaire #Vidéo


  • La culture du partage ou la revanche des foules « L’Atelier des icônes
    http://culturevisuelle.org/icones/2731

    Au cours des années 1920, il devint évident que le cinéma était en train de modifier en profondeur le rapport des contemporains à la culture. L’adaptation des pratiques du théâtre à une nouvelle technologie et le succès mondial d’œuvres originales, notamment les films de Chaplin, furent perçus comme l’installation d’un nouvel art des masses1. Nul mieux que Walter Benjamin, dans son célèbre article “L’œuvre d’art à l’époque de sa reproductibilité technique”, n’a dessiné l’opposition paradigmatique de l’ancienne culture bourgeoise, appuyée sur le modèle de l’unicité de l’œuvre d’art, avec les nouveaux médias d’enregistrement, imposant par la reproductibilité le règne des industries culturelles2. Le cinéma n’a pas fait disparaître l’œuvre d’art. Mais il a doté d’une légitimité inédite les expressions de la culture populaire, contribuant ainsi au renouvellement des formes artistiques et à l’hybridation des cultures.

    Au cours des années 2000, il est devenu évident qu’internet, et particulièrement le web interactif, était en train de modifier en profondeur les pratiques culturelles. Alors que la circulation réglée des œuvres de l’esprit permettait d’en préserver le contrôle, la nouvelle fluidité des biens culturels a favorisé leur appropriation en dehors de tout cadre juridique ou commercial, au point de faire de l’acte même du partage la signature de l’opération culturelle


  • Les mondes d’hier
    http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2013/01/BOUCHARDEAU/48615

    Pour épigraphe de sa dernière œuvre, cette Ville des anges parue en 2010 à Berlin, Christa Wolf (1929-2011) avait choisi une phrase de Walter Benjamin : « Les véritables souvenirs doivent donc, plutôt que procéder à un compte rendu, désigner avec précision le lieu où le chercheur s’en est emparé. » Née en (...) / #Allemagne, États-Unis, #Histoire, #Intellectuels, #Littérature, #Nazisme, #Police, #Seconde_guerre_mondiale_1939-1945, #Services_secrets, #RDA_1949-1990, #RFA_1949-1990 - (...)

    #États-Unis #2013/01


  • Walter Benjamin : Early Writings, 1910-1917 (2011)

    http://monoskop.org/log/?p=7652

    Here we see the young Benjamin in his various roles as moralist, cultural critic, school reformer, and poet-philosopher. The diversity of interest and profundity of thought characteristic of his better-known work from the 1920s and 30s are already in evidence, as we witness the emergence of critical projects that would occupy Benjamin throughout his intellectual career: the role of the present in historical remembrance, the relationship of the intellectual to political action, the idea of truth in works of art, and the investigation of language as the veiled medium of experience.

    http://ge.tt/api/1/files/9GcBExa/0/blob?download [#PDF]

    Ces écrits de jeunesse ne sont apparemment pas disponibles en français, si l’on en croit http://www.walter-benjamin.fr/biblio.html.

    #walter_benjamin #philosophie #critique

    • En fait quelques-uns de ces écrits sont disponibles dans Œuvres I (« Deux poèmes de Friederich Hölderlin », « La vie des étudiants », « L’idiot de Dostoïevsky », et ceux sur le langage). C’est vrai que les écrits d’avant 1914, je ne les ai jamais vu traduit... Mais il y a une telle prolifération des publications de Benjamin qu’ils doivent bien trainer quelque part. Quelqu’un-e sait ?

    • peut-être que @shaber33 a une idée ?
      En attendant on me renvoie vers ce doc :

      One Way Street: Fragments for Walter Benjamin (1993)
      http://www.ubu.com/film/benjamin_fragments.html

      Duration: 58 min.
      Directed by John Hughes

      One way street explores the life and work of German Jewish critic and philosopher, Walter Benjamin, who died escaping the Gestapo in 1940. Although Benjamin’s work is little known in this country, he is regarded in Europe as one of the most influential figures in 20th Century thought.


  • Walter Benjamin, l’art et l’émancipation

    http://zones-subversives.over-blog.com/article-walter-banjamin-et-l-art-entre-marchandise-et-e

    Walter Benjamin, un marxiste critique influencé par la littérature, se penche sur l’art et la culture. Il dénonce déjà une culture de masse marchandisée et aliénante. Mais il insiste également sur la dimension émancipatrice de la créativité.

    Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) apparaît comme une figure singulière de la pensée critique. Il se rattache notamment au romantisme révolutionnaire et concilie le communisme avec l’art et la littérature. Ce penseur refuse la pensée froide et mécanique du marxisme scientifique. Sa critique du capitalisme et de la civilisation marchande s’appuie sur une analyse mais se nourrit également d’une sensibilité artistique inspirée par les surréalistes.

    Sa réflexion permet de penser une émancipation à travers la créativité et l’esthétique.


  • Accueil | Archives Getaway
    http://getaway.eu.org/accueil

    Nous collectons des tracts, brochures, affiches, livres, objets, sons, images, films liés aux luttes sociales et groupes révolutionnaires. Notre intérêt se porte sur la période allant des années 60 à aujourd’hui, sur ce qui s’est produit au plus près des luttes, qui émane principalement de collectifs éphémères et de mouvements tendant à dépasser le cadre des partis et syndicats, et qui donc, bien plus que les livres édités, est amené à disparaître si on n’en organise pas la conservation.

    Ce pourrait être : le plan de tournage d’un ciné tract, un tract d’un collectif de mal logés de votre quartier, un carton de brochures de votre oncle qui a été maoïste dans les années 70, le compte rendu de réunion d’un comité de quartier post 68, un album photo d’un squat des années 80, la bibliothèque d’un syndicaliste révolutionnaire, l’ordinateur d’un anti-technologie en lutte, si vous en trouvez un, la banderole d’une occupation d’Anpe dans les années 90 par des jeunes précaires, le film super 8 d’une manifestation quelconque, un des djembés du collectif de sans papiers de la Maison des Ensembles, l’affiche d’appel à mobilisation pour Klaus Croissant, un enregistrement sur bande magnétique d’une assemblée générale d’occupation à Billancourt, la transcription d’une discussion entre Guattari, Foucault, Fritz Lang, Tronti, Walter Benjamin et la femme de ménage en lutte du collège de France, un exemplaire du guide juridique « s’évader sans peine », la maquette d’un cortège de l’autonomie organisée, le 33 tours d’un chant de lutte en français pas trop insupportable à écouter, des croquis d’un foyer Sonacotra en grève, la vraie recette de la composition de classe, le plan de tissage de votre grand-mère bigouden traditionnellement en lutte contre le folklore, le plateau repas d’un gréviste de la faim des QHS, un des chapeaux des bombeuses à chapeau, le cahier de slogans d’un comité de lycéens, le clic-clac d’un psychiatre de l’anti-psychiatrie, la mob d’un jeune prolétaire rebelle métropolitain, la gamelle d’un sidérurgiste en grève, un slogan intéressant avec son fragment de mur ou à défaut une photo, une carte postale opéraïste... On irait jusqu’à prendre une tasse dessinée par Rodchenko. Par contre nous ne prendrons ni le bol à cheveux de Bernard Thibault, ni la cravate de Georges Marchais, ni l’exemplaire rare du discours dactylographié d’André Malraux accueillant les cendres de Jean Moulin au Panthéon – sauf pour financer les archives.

    Remuer le passé, lui demander des réponses et des explications n’est pas une opération anodine, recueillir des documents, s’en faire les dépositaires c’est aussi contracter une dette, c’est s’engager à essayer d’être à la hauteur des événements, victoires et défaites, joies, espoirs et désillusions qu’ils peuvent contenir. Ce n’est pas une responsabilité que l’on peut endosser seul. C’est aussi pour éviter les écueils d’un regard inapproprié sur cette histoire que la forme collective nous semble le mieux répondre à ce rôle, c’est comme une sorte de garantie contre les analyses vaines, pour trouver de la bienveillance, de l’intelligence et de la perspicacité.
    Mais le passé est muet. Face à lui, pour éviter le soliloque, nouer le dialogue au présent, dégeler ces paroles qui nous parviennent comme prises dans la glace, il faut être plusieurs. D’autres part, pour lui redonner vie, nous avons besoin de formes collectives capables de recevoir ses traces, aussi parce que pour la plupart elles sont le reste d’une élaboration collective. En somme nous souhaitons inventer des formes de travail. Ça pourrait être : appeler largement à venir lire et réfléchir ensemble sur une partie des archives qui serait à cette occasion déplacée dans un lieu public, élaborer une réédition avec des vrais morceaux de présent dedans, à partir de matériaux issus du fond préparer une discussion, la transcrire puis la diffuser, enquêter en partant de documents pour mieux comprendre une situation de lutte, bref, créer l’occasion d’articuler du travail collectif et du travail public, à ciel ouvert.


  • Normalize, l’application qui dénonce sa propre bêtise
    http://neosting.net/art-photo-image/normalisze-filtre.html

    Le philosophe et Critique Walter Benjamin parlait d’Aura pour définir dans son essai, L’Œuvre d’art à l’époque de sa reproductibilité technique, le concept caractérisant la spécificité de l’œuvre d’art qui est unique, liée à un endroit précis et qui s’inscrit dans ...

    #filtre #instagram #normalize #photo

    http://images.neosting.net/2012/08/enhanced-buzz-wide-20583-1345478633-3-320x165.jpg


  • Le motif le plus caché de celui qui collectionne pourrait peut-être se circonscrire ainsi : il accepte d’engager le combat contre la dispersion <Zerstreuung>. Le grand collectionneur, tout à fait à l’origine, est touché par la confusion et l’éparpillement des choses dans le monde. C’est ce même spectacle qui a tant occupé les hommes de l’âge baroque ; on ne peut, en particulier, expliquer l’image du monde de l’allégoricien sans le bouleversement passionnel que provoque ce spectacle. L’allégoricien forme pour ainsi dire le pôle opposé du collectionneur. Il a renoncé à élucider les choses par la voie d’une étude de leurs propriétés et leurs affinités. Il les détache de leur contexte et se fie dès le début à sa pénétration• pour élucider leur signification. Le collectionneur, au contraire, réunit les choses qui vont ensemble ; il parvient ainsi à fournir des renseignements sur les choses grâce à leurs affinités ou leur succession dans le temps. Mais un allégoricien ne se cache pas moins dans chaque collectionneur, et un collectionneur dans chaque allégoricien – et cela est plus important que toutes le différences qu’il peut y avoir entre eux. En ce qui concerne le collectionneur, sa collection n’est jamais complète ; lui manque-t-il une seule pièce <Stück>, et tout ce qu’il a recueilli n’est qu’une œuvre fragmentaire <Stückwerk>, ce que sont depuis le début les choses pour l’allégorie. Pour l’allégoricien, d’autre part, les choses ne représentent que les rubriques d’un dictionnaire secret qui révélera leurs significations à l’initié. Il n’aura donc jamais accumulé assez de choses, car une chose peut d’autant moins suppléer l’autre qu’aucune espèce de réflexion ne permet de prévoir la signification que la pénétration peut revendiquer pour chacune d’elles. [H 4a, 1]

    Walter Benjamin, « Notes et matériaux. H [Le collectionneur] », Paris, capitale du XIXe siècle : le livre des Passages, traduction Jean Lacoste, Cerf, 1989, p. 228-229.
    –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

    • « Pénétration » traduit Tiefsinn [NdT]

    #Walter_Benjamin


  • La #presse comme appareil d’hégémonie selon #Gramsci
    http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/quad_0987-1381_2005_num_57_1_1661

    On doit à deux penseurs marxistes des années 1930 des conceptions critiques concernant la communication et les médias modernes. Il s’agit de Walter Benjamin et d’Antonio Gramsci. La pensée du premier a fait date avec l’essai L’œuvre d’art à l’âge de sa reproductibilité technique (1936) qui a ouvert en quelque sorte la critique de la culture développée par Max Horkheimer et Theodor W. Adorno, les pères de l’École de Francfort. On connaît moins en France l’apport en la matière d’Antonio Gramsci, fondateur du parti communiste italien et l’un des tout premiers philosophes marxistes du XXe siècle, aujourd’hui tombé dans l’oubli.


  • Petite histoire de la photographie | Walter Benjamin (La Revue des Ressources)
    http://www.larevuedesressources.org/petite-histoire-de-la-photographie,1990.html

    Le brouillard qui s’étend sur les commencements de la photographie n’est pas tout à fait aussi épais que celui qui recouvre les débuts de l’imprimerie ; plus distinctement que pour celle-ci, peut- être, l’heure était venue de la découverte, plus d’un l’avait pressenti ; des hommes qui, indépendamment les uns des autres, poursuivaient un même but : fixer dans la camera obscura ces images, connues au moins depuis Léonard1. Lorsque ce résultat, après environ cinq ans d’efforts, fut accordé en même temps à Niépce et Daguerre, l’État, profitant des difficultés des inventeurs pour déposer un brevet, s’en saisit et, après dédommagement des intéressés, en fit chose publique (...) Source : La Revue des Ressources

    • Un grand classique ce texte. N’empêche, je me suis toujours demandé si de co-axer la camera obscura aux tentatives de Henry-Felix Talbot, n’avait pas, en fait, appauvri la photographie en lui assignant, de fait, son devoir de reproduction et de ressemblance, certes pour le plus grand bénéfice de la peinture, débarrassée de la corvée de représentation, quand on peut se demander dans le même temps ce qui serait advenu de la photographie, sans cela, une sorte de jeu improbable avec la lumière, je sais c’est idiot, la messe est dite.


  • Los Angeles Review of Books - For Future Friends Of Walter
    http://lareviewofbooks.org/article.php?type=&id=791&fulltext=1&media=

    Contributors Authors Genres Events About LARB
    TAGGED AUTHORS
    Walter Benjamin
    TAGGED BOOKS
    Walter Benjamin: A Philosophical Portrait, The Messianic Reduction: Walter Benjamin and the Shape of Time, Walter Benjamin: An Introduction to His Work and Thought, The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin, 1910-1940
    For Future Friends of Walter by Brían Hanrahan
    July 26th, 2012 reset - +

    Image by Ayala Tal

    As for me, I am busy pointing my telescope through the bloody mist at a mirage of the nineteenth century, which I am trying to reproduce based on the characteristics that it will manifest in a future state of the world, liberated from magic. Of course, I first have to build myself this telescope.

    — Walter Benjamin, letter to Werner Kraft, October 1935.

    1.

    In 1942, Gershom Scholem, the oldest friend of the German writer and philosopher Walter Benjamin and his unofficial literary executor, wrote to Benjamin’s ex-wife Dora, in exile in London: “We are almost the last who knew him when he was young […] and who knows how much longer we will survive in this apocalypse.” Two years previously, Benjamin had committed suicide in police custody at the French-Spanish border, overdosing on morphine in fear of what might happen upon his transfer to the German authorities. But in spite of the bleakness of the moment — Benjamin dead, his library and papers scattered, his writings banned, burned, and lost — Scholem was determined to think of the future. He asked for donations of letters and other materials for his Benjamin archive in Jerusalem, for the sake of those who never knew Benjamin, but who might someday read his work: “for future friends of Walter.”

    Even with his resolute optimism, in 1942 Scholem could hardly have imagined the flourishing of Benjamin’s posthumous reputation. After a slow beginning in the immediate aftermath of the war, Benjamin’s standing and influence have risen with every decade. With his associations with revolutionary Marxism now largely removed, defused or ignored, Benjamin holds an unshakable position as an icon of the academic humanities. “Benjamin Studies” is a thriving sub-discipline, comfortable with its status as a professional specialism. In German, early, limited anthologies have been replaced by two generations of Collected Works. Where the first was comprehensive, the second is forensic in the vast scope of its philological completism: including color facsimile volumes, the full run of this Critical Collected Works, due for completion in 2018, will cost over $2000. In English, the turn-of-the-century publication of an acclaimed, four-volume Selected Works and the translation of the thousand-page Arcades Project greatly expanded the Anglophone oeuvre, and introduced new generations of “Walter’s future friends” to the breadth of his writing. New French and Italian editions are in progress. And in spite of —or because of — tough times for the publishing business, there is a steady stream of Benjamin books, from scholarly and trade presses: new selections (an English Early Works last year), monographs and biographies, introductions and facsimiles, essay collections, lexicons and semi-fictional ruminations, even the occasional polemical counterblast. The marketing hook this year is the 120th anniversary of his birth. Not such a round number, but why wait for 125? One way or another, Benjamin is an intensely popular figure, and a good commercial bet.

    But beyond the name and the famous melancholy face, it is not easy — it has never been easy — to sketch the contours of Benjamin’s work and thought, or for that matter his life and personality. There are various reasons for this, not least the sheer scope and diversity of his writing. Among many other things, Benjamin wrote metaphysical treatises, literary-critical monographs, philosophical dialogues, media-theoretical essays, book reviews, travel pieces, drug memoirs, whimsical feuilletons, diaries and aphorisms, modernist miniatures, radio plays for children, reflections on law, technology, theology and the philosophy of history, analyses of authors, artists, schools and epochs. His intense, precise, enlightening intellectual engagement grasped miniscule events and tiny details — a motto on a stained-glass window, 17 types of Ibizan fig — while at the same time, in the same movement, retaining a sense for history’s longitudinal waves and metaphysics’ worlds behind the world. Although he often lamented his own indolence, as both a writer and a person Benjamin was mobile, endlessly inquisitive and engaging, and exceptionally productive. Looking back on his friend’s capacity for churning experience into thought, the philosopher Theodor Adorno saw something depersonalizing, almost inhuman, in this prodigious apparatus of absorption and reflection: “Despite extreme individuation [...] Benjamin seems empirically hardly to have been a person at all, rather an arena of movement in which content forced its way, through him, into language.”

    Second, much of his writing was unpublished during his lifetime and comes in fragmentary, draft or multiple forms. More than most, Benjamin’s oeuvre forms an open system: ideas and passages migrate between different texts, letters morph into essays and vice versa, texts are so heavily rewritten that they contradict their previous versions. There are unfinished books, unstarted books, abandoned books, aborted books. Even the more settled and public texts — the semi-autobiographical vignettes of Berlin Childhood around 1900, say — rarely fit their own apparent genre; they are often curiously loose and modular, parts not quite subordinate to the whole. Moreover, Benjamin’s startling mental and verbal facility has had its own decompository effect. His writings contain ideas and images which are both memorable and ambiguous — the artwork’s aura, the flâneur in the streets, the angel of history, the decay of experience, the flash of messianic Jetztzeit, among many others — and which have, as a result, readily taken on a life of their own. Finally, throughout his writing, Benjamin continually reflects on these questions: on text and context, author and oeuvre, reading and writing, language and history, on the production and collection of texts, on their fragmentation and decay, reconstitution and re-constellation. Think about Benjamin, the writer or the thinker, and he has almost always been there first, and written ahead of you.

    2.

    So, for example, we find Benjamin in 1919, in a letter to his former school friend Ernst Schoen, discussing the autonomous life of published correspondence. Individual letters, he says, can detach themselves from their authorship, becoming abstract, but collections of letters have a different kind of posterity. A writer’s letters are an index of a life as it unfolded, but the telescoping of events into a few pages, and the compression of lived time into short minutes of reading, brings something else into existence. The letters contain the author’s afterlife, but an “afterlife that is already embedded within the life,” something which in one sense is already there, but in another, is produced in the unknowable and never-finished encounter between writer and his unknown later readers, between a fluid now and a fluid then.

    Two closely-related themes are at work here: first, Benjamin’s abiding preoccupation with the complexity of temporal experience and form, with how past and future communicate through the present, but do so, in a sense, behind the present’s back; and second, his strong sense for the de- and re-composition of phenomena in time, with bits and pieces detaching to form themselves anew, accumulating in new configurations, working to rhythms and by dint of forces unknown to the momentarily stable world of beings and things. In addition, and again this is typical Benjamin, the idea of letters’ afterlife is graced with an unusual self-reflexivity. His letter, in making a general point about the life of letters and of letter-writers, seems to invoke — indirectly but knowingly — specific past futures and future pasts, both its own and that of its author.

    But the complex temporality of experience is just not a private matter; it unavoidably coincides and intersects with public, historical time. This crossing of public and private temporalities can be seen in Benjamin’s own editing of authors’ letters: nearly twenty years later, his last German publication (pseudonymous, to circumvent his status as a banned author) was an edition of letters between German writers, a collection of minor texts tracing a counter-historical line through the nineteenth century. The book is often seen as a letter in its own right, an exemplary message sent to Germany from exile, under the ironic, quietly admonitory title of Deutsche Menschen (translated as “German Men and Women”). As well as preserving small, intense moments of friendship and lived affect, the letters often — like Benjamin’s introductions to each exchange — combine learning with a wise, unpretentious, ethical sensibility: a posthumous portrait of civilized living, sent anonymously to a culture now defined by hero cults, brutality and murder.

    Benjamin’s own letters were first collected in the late 1960s, under the joint editorship of Scholem and Adorno. His correspondence, like all of his writing, was immediately drawn into the agonistic political culture of the time, as the mutual suspicion and incommensurable standpoints of Benjamin’s interwar friends — caricatured as Scholem the Jewish mystic, Adorno the prissy dialectician-aesthete, Bertolt Brecht the manipulative leftist bully — were replayed in highly politicized responses to the work. Adorno, back from American exile and head of the reconstituted Institute for Social Research (the Frankfurt School), was mistrusted on the left, who saw his mandarin Marxism as quietist collusion with the ruling class. At the moment when Adorno was publishing his correspondence with Benjamin, radical students were appropriating his friend’s name: the Frankfurt University literature department was occupied and temporarily renamed the “Walter Benjamin Institute.” (Adorno’s own institute was occupied too; famously, he called in the police.) Samizdat copies of the then-little-known 1930s essays — “The Author as Producer,” “Program for a Proletarian Children’s Theatre,” “The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility” — carried slogans on their covers aligning Benjamin with contemporary political and psychochemical revolt. In this climate, Scholem and Adorno were accused of abusing their position, downplaying Benjamin’s sharp left-political turn, editing out correspondence with Brecht, even of deliberately suppressing late work, supposedly too explosive to be released from the archives.

    Suspicions of censorship waned as scholarly editions were published in the following decades, including a six-volume German Collected Letters. It became clear that the limitations of the earliest volumes of correspondence were mostly attributable to the simple unavailability of material. A revised single-volume Letters appeared in the late 1970s, incorporating newly available material; it soon came out in an excellent English translation. This volume, now published in English paperback for the first time, offers a generous sampling of Benjamin’s life and correspondence in over 600 pages. Beginning before the First World War — Benjamin in 1910, 18 years old, traipsing around the Alps near Liechtenstein, writing to school friends, full of beans, full of opinions, fond of exclamation marks (!!) — it runs until just before his death in 1940, its last pages documenting the years in France, colored by poverty, illness and internment, but dominated by an unchanged devotion to his work. Largely made up of letters to male friends and colleagues, the collection is testimony to passionate intellectual engagement and to sheer epistolary stamina: Benjamin seems never to have stopped writing words on paper. But there are limits to the collection: no correspondence with his family, nothing from his love affairs or his marriage. (Benjamin married Dora Pollak in 1917. They had a son in 1919 and a bitter, expensive divorce in 1930.) The closest to love letters are some mildly flirtatious notes to an ex-girlfriend, the sculptor Jula Radt. Many rediscovered letters published separately are not included; while we can read some of the chatty letters to Adorno’s wife Gretel here, there is none of the correspondence with Siegfried Kracauer, fellow analyst of popular culture and later his fellow exile in France. (In a prefatory note, the publishers point out restrictions on revising the original German Letters.)

    Letters formed an extension for Benjamin’s undoubted gift for friendship, but they were also a particular mode of thought, driven and shaped by what Adorno, in his introduction, calls their “mediated, objectified immediacy”: letters’ particular compound of absences and presences, at once temporal, spatial and communicational. In the letters, ideas appear, form and develop at different rates and in different registers. Writing to Scholem and Florens Christian Rang in the earlier years, and in the scintillating later correspondence with Adorno, there are pages of sustained theoretical reflection, rehearsing arguments and sometimes drafting passages he will use in the work “proper.” But at times, a single word, an observation or an aphorism announces the tiny presence of a germ of thought. For the reader of the “afterlife,” knowing what is to come, these moments of emergence can have the force of dramatic entrances, as when, in January 1928, he tells Scholem in passing that he intends a short piece on the nineteenth-century arcades of Paris. The topic, in all its ramifications, would dominate his work for the rest of his life.

    Benjamin’s letters to Scholem form the basis of the collection. The two had been students together, neighbors in Basel and Munich during the war, passionate co-readers of philosophy and literature. Their long, affectionate letters contain fascinating quotidian stuff — malicious gossip, complaints of bad luck, apologies for poor handwriting, accounts of illnesses and travels — but above all, they teem with collaborative thought: to no one else does Benjamin write of his work with such ease and excitement. The fervent discussion of books and ideas is inseparable from a more material bibliomania. Famously, Benjamin was a collector; above all else, he was a collector of books. His library was an extension of his self, its condition an index of his fortunes, its maintenance a central task of his existence. It would be, he writes to Scholem, the sole “material epitaph of my existence.” Early on, confident in the future, he constantly visits dealers and auctions, buys first editions with money he doesn’t have, complains about inflation-hedgers distorting the market. Later, biographical vicissitudes take their toll. In the divorce, he loses his beloved collection of nineteenth-century children’s literature (he wrote later: “it is growing steadily even today, but no longer in my garden.”). He manages to have half his library shipped out of Germany, but is then forced to sell it off bit by bit. The text “Unpacking My Library” — among his most charming essays, an account of the pleasures of re-finding books, of sorting and ordering them — is, in part, a fantasy of his books’ homecoming, and his own.

    On one level, Scholem’s emigration to Palestine cemented the separation from Benjamin. On another, their relation took on new and deeper form: in Jerusalem, Scholem appointed himself Benjamin’s archivist and first reader, the keeper of his thought; his letters contain the earliest attempts to grasp the shape of Benjamin’s work as a whole and assess its historical significance. Back in Europe, Benjamin is a loyal correspondent, but not always a perfect friend. He takes advantage now and again: Scholem arranges a stipend to learn Hebrew, Benjamin takes the money, but not the classes. Scholem continually suggests a move to Palestine: Benjamin doesn’t want to go, but won’t come straight out and say so. By the 1930s, the relation in letters remains immensely important for both, but on Scholem’s rare visits to Europe, Benjamin seems to be going out of his way to avoid him.

    Disagreements over politics and Benjamin’s friendship with Brecht were the biggest problem, disagreements that are both the theme and the reason for the small number of letters to Benjamin included here. These, by Scholem and by Adorno, ultimately turn on the place of politics in Benjamin’s work and his life: their inclusion is partly a response to the 1960s disputes, the editors’ gesture of retrospective self-justification. Scholem thought Benjamin’s deepening Marxism a desperate and masochistic self-delusion, with isolation and frustration underlying what he saw as a profound betrayal of intellectual principles. “You issue a currency in your writing that you are […] simply incapable of redeeming,” he writes, “…your desire for community places you at risk, even if it is the apocalyptic community of the revolution that speaks out of so many of your writings […] [in] imagery with which you are cheating yourself out of your calling.” Adorno took a similar, if more nuanced line, and certainly shared Scholem’s distrust of Brecht. For him, Benjamin’s turn to history and to politics risked robbing his work of philosophical force. Worse still, his new-found and insufficiently dialectical enthusiasm for technology, popular culture, and the masses ultimately ran the danger of “identification with the aggressor”: collusion with historical forces of untruth, reification and delusion.

    3.

    This tension between religiously-infused metaphysics and radical politics coalesces with a second tension in Benjamin’s life and work — between philosophy and literature, as modes of writing and understanding and as academic disciplines. For many of Benjamin’s biographers, the year 1924 is both a biographical turning point and the moment when these tensions begin to ratchet up. The more dramatic accounts of the shift have Benjamin vacationing on Capri, where, in quick succession, he reads Georg Lukács’s History and Class Consciousness and falls in love with the “Latvian Bolshevik” Asja Lacis, Brecht’s former stage manager, whom he then pursues to Riga and then Moscow. The current scholarly consensus, well summarized in Uwe Steiner’s introduction to Benjamin’s thought, downplays notions of epiphanic readings and life-changing encounters, suggesting instead the expansion of intellectual horizons, and the application of existing metaphysical methods to concrete historical themes, with spectacularly productive results.

    What is clear is that Benjamin’s mid-twenties “turn” was as much a becoming-worldly as it was a straightforward politicization: it involved new ideas and new identifications, but also new geographies (his appetite for travel only intensified as the years went on) and a new professional identity. Benjamin had trained both as a literary scholar and a philosopher; it was as the former that he first sought professional advancement, and spectacularly failed to achieve it. Steiner sketches a vigorous portrait of Benjamin as an experimental and philosophical philologist, at odds with his institutional and cultural surroundings. Problems came to a head around his university Habilitation candidacy — a process somewhat akin to academic tenure — which centered on his study of Baroque theatre, The Origin of the German Tragic Drama. While the book carefully fulfilled academic convention, it was dense and demanding, its unorthodox conceptualizations of “origin” and “allegory” going far beyond the bounds of humanist belles lettres. In professional terms, it was a disaster. Benjamin was rejected even before his formal application.

    Steiner describes the refusal as a combined result of academic politicking, anti-Semitism and blockheaded philistinism, and as a “tragedy for the German university.” Perhaps it wasn’t such a tragedy for Benjamin himself though: the refusal steered him all the more surely towards the avant-garde and the arcana of nineteenth-century life, in the direction of the Arcades Project. In any case, they would have kicked him out in 1933. As it was, his dismissal was yet another event marking a fork in the biographical path, if not a rupture in the structures of his thought. From here on out, Benjamin was a professional writer, his increasingly itinerant lifestyle matched by the eclecticism of his subject matter and the variousness of his publishers. As a freelance essayist in Germany, he made a good enough living; he had friends who commissioned for the newspapers and radio stations. Later, exiled in Paris and elsewhere, he continually struggled to make a living at all.

    As his engagement with literary history had made clear, Benjamin’s philosophical formation — marked above all by Kant, encountered directly and through the various post-Kantianisms of his day — suffused his writing across many topics. But as with Nietzsche, Benjamin’s occasionalism, the quality of his prose and the breadth of his subject matter have cast doubt on his philosophical status. The question has continually been asked: what is the philosophy, and what exactly is philosophical, in his work’s busy “arena of movement”? One approach, taken by two prominent recent Benjamin monographs, is to emphasize Benjamin as a philosopher of time. As implied in his comments on the temporality of published letters, for Benjamin, time can be seen — and should be written, and must be lived — as something more complicated and denser with potential than the homogenous, evenly sequential temporality to which we conceptually and experientially default. Hidden and possibly secret relations bind together the apparently personal time of inner experience, the larger-scaled, historical time of societal and anthropological existence, and the transcendent time of messianic intervention.

    Peter Fenves’s The Messianic Reduction: Walter Benjamin and the Shape of Time traces Benjamin’s rethinking of experience and temporality to his formative years as a student of philosophy during and after the First World War. This Benjamin, not yet much taken with vernacular culture or avant-garde experimentation, writes in a difficult, abstract voice, but is fully and confidently engaged in the philosophical debates of his day. (Although Benjamin wrote prolifically while very young, he wrote almost nothing considered juvenilia, apart, maybe, from the Alpine letters.) Fenves’s reading of Benjamin’s early texts locates them in a dense network of influences and dialogues, a complex force field encompassing contemporary mathematical theory, various strands — Cohenist, Rickertian, Cassirerite — of neo-Kantianism, and, more unexpectedly, the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl and his followers.

    Benjamin’s stance towards all these, and his readings of Husserl in particular, are already colored by the modernist messianism that became a hallmark of his later thought. The messianic, for Benjamin, was nothing so simple as a redeemer arriving to call time and distribute justice at the end of days. Rather, it referred to something like a structure of temporal experience, but an “experience” that goes beyond the individual and even the social. To use the Benjaminian terminology that Fenves brings into sharp relief, it is the immanent tension that is the fact and the force of divinity in the world, permanently present, endlessly mutable. This belief was the basis of Benjamin’s particular take on Husserl’s “phenomenological reduction,” the program of rigorous mind-clearing phenomenology used to set aside the default “natural attitude” of consciousness, with its preconceived notions of causality, subject-object relations and mind-world distinctions.

    For Benjamin, the “reduction” mediated a sphere of experience beyond the conditioned framings of conscious thought. But, as Fenves reads him, Benjamin granted this subjectless experience of pure receptivity a near-mystical valence. The “reduction” was an opening onto a kind of paradise; the stubborn “natural attitude” was both analog and agent of the fallen, guilty state of mankind. This also underlay Benjamin’s disagreement on questions of method. Unlike Husserl’s willed “bracketing” of philosophical assumptions — a carefully prescribed method for dismantling the self-evident — for Benjamin, getting beyond the “natural attitude” was not a matter of decision, for the philosopher or anyone else. Not that the impossibility of a chosen path implies the non-existence of the divine, or even, strictly speaking, its inaccessibility: the divine is something that can be thought and experienced, but always as the irruption or appearance of an outside, never commanded forth by a direct action of human will. The “reduction” was done to the philosopher, not by him.

    The Messianic Reduction’s difficult, but ultimately revelatory, analyses track the early Benjamin as he searches for islands of “reduced” experience within the fallen world. In his very early essays and fragments, Benjamin hones in on phenomena where experience is loosed from the wretched ballast of subjecthood and causality. Hölderlin’s poetry is one privileged place. The practice of painting, with its relation of spatiality, perception, fantasy, and color, is another. The child’s experience of color, as seeing subject and biological being, is a third. Notwithstanding its highly abstract idiom, Benjamin’s writing here is often breathtakingly intense and original. There are extraordinary pages in which Benjamin — as if to look sentimentality full in the face — reflects on childhood innocence, transforming the theme into a bizarre and brilliant reflection on the paradoxical phenomenology of blushing. (For Benjamin, involuntary physical coloration does not express subjective interiority, it locally abolishes it.) Most abstractly, Fenves finds traces of “reduction” in Benjamin’s — rather vague — references to advanced mathematical theory, which he encountered through his great-uncle Arthur Schoenflies, an early set theorist, and through Scholem, a student of mathematics. If phenomenology strengthened Benjamin’s nascent critique of Kant’s narrowly-drawn ideas of experience, avant-garde math seemed to offer new images of temporality, beyond the homogeneity of calendric sequence, beyond the this-then-that of simplistic causalities — images of time as cycloid, or planar, or, alluding to an early theory of fractals, as a continuously turning, tangentless curve.

    4.

    In a coda, The Messianic Reduction fast-forwards to the 1940 essay, “On the Concept of History,” finding the non-linear “shape of time” writ larger here in the late philosophy of history: now the messianic is the making-congruent of the local shape of time and the larger shape of history, and the messiah is a name for the force that accomplishes this temporal structuring. This soterio-temporal formalism, linking the early and the late work, also features in Eli Friedlander’s Walter Benjamin: A Philosophical Portrait. But here things go the other way round. Friedlander’s analysis centers on the Arcades Project, the vast, uncompleted — for some, uncompletable — work which consumed Benjamin in the 1930s, and which, in the form of sketches, sub-projects and spin-offs, gave rise to many of his best known essays and images. Friedlander reads the Arcades Project as the cohering, sense-making culmination of the oeuvre, its logical as well as its chronological terminus, which can — if the direction is reversed — reveal the coherence of Benjamin’s philosophy, and the “unique spiritual character” of his thought. In the rigor and sobriety, but above all the unity and systematicity unveiled by this method, so goes the claim, inhere the fundamentally philosophical character of Benjamin’s work.

    For Friedlander, the Arcades’ “convolutes,” at first sight a sprawling taxonomy of notes and excerpts on nineteenth-century Paris, in fact respond to, and keep company with, the work of the greatest of philosophical system builders: Plato and Leibniz, Kant and Hegel. Interpretations of Benjamin’s work as a compendium of brilliant, disconnected images and thoughts — epitomized by Hannah Arendt’s image of Benjamin as a “pearl diver” rescuing strange thought-artifacts from the deep — are more than just wrong, they are “catastrophic misreadings.” The eye-opening implication, in other words, is this: for all his vast, appreciative reception, Benjamin remains severely underestimated. Transcending every peer group except the most rarified philosophical canon, Benjamin is not, for Friedlander, just a writer or a thinker, he is a philosopher of world-historical significance, and his work is a vessel of the highest truth.

    The book’s title is accurate, but potentially misleading. This is not a “life and works” intellectual biography; it has no interest in what Benjamin looked like, where he lived, what he felt or ate, whom he loved or who he was: Friedlander wastes no time on Scholem’s suggestion that one key to Benjamin’s writing lies in his encoding of personal experiences. This is a very different kind of method than Fenves’s dense net of readings, encounters and influences, the reconstruction of micro-capillaries in the social body of thought: the distinction between intellectual history and the history of ideas could hardly be clearer. “Walter Benjamin” in this second study should not be considered a person, but, first, as a prodigious structure of capacities, capable of gathering thought into form, creating written images which address, absorb and ultimately reshape historical time, and, second, as the corpus of significant texts made in the crucible of this knowledge. All that matters is what has been read and what comes to be written. There is no need, in this analysis, for Berlin or Port Bou, Dora or Asja, the angry father or the neglected son.

    If the content of the life is irrelevant, the content of the late work — the Arcades Project and its accompanying train of essays and studies — is abstracted. On one level the Arcades can be seen to mark the furthest development of the shift — begun around 1924, where Fenves breaks off — away from philology and pure philosophy, and towards a new form of cultural history, both experimental and, in a complicated way, monumental. This entailed archaeology of modernity — its urban spaces, temporal structures, emergent media, dreamworlds of commodities and crowds — based on a much broader conception of experience and thought than normally accepted within philosophy’s walls. But, like Adorno — or at least like one side of Adorno — Friedlander does not regard the Arcades as primarily or ultimately an investigation of Parisian history, commodity capitalism or phantasmagoric urban modernity. He takes his cue from a comment in Adorno’s 1935 correspondence with Benjamin: “I openly confess to regarding the Arcades not as a historical-sociological investigation but rather as prima philosophia in your own particular sense […] I regard your work on the Arcades as the center not merely of your own philosophy, but as the decisive philosophical word which must find utterance today; as a chef d’oeuvre like no other.”

    For Friedlander, the Arcades Project’s material and formal heterogeneity is no obstacle to the recuperation of its systematicity. The perfectly chosen cover photograph presents a visual manifesto for his profoundly ambitious essay: the photo shows one of the famous Parisian arcades, but only its framework, looking through the iron-and-glass grid of its roof to the sky beyond. The book’s aim, accordingly, is ultimately to pass through the Arcades itself, to grasp the formal armature that gathers and shapes the content (its Darstellung, which Friedlander rightly stresses as “presentation” not “representation”), and divine its structure and philosophical significance. However, the form that, for Friedlander, bears the book’s truth is not to be found in the actual arrangement of Benjamin’s material. His analysis does not address particular taxonomies or juxtapositions; there is no investigation of the strata laid down by the book’s successive organizational conceptions, from the original impulse lent by Benjamin’s reading of Louis Aragon’s Paris Peasant, to the infusion of deepening historical horror, and more explicit political reflection, as the 1930s wore on. Rather, the “presentational form” is a secondary formation, a constellation of concepts transcending the Arcades’ content, as Friedlander’s intricate presentation systematically reconstructs Benjaminian idea-material in dozens of interlocking sub-chapters.

    Given the systematizing impulse, all here is connected to all else. But one concept stands out in the formation, the point towards and through which every path runs: the dialectical image. This difficult concept is central to the double task of Benjamin’s late political-historical epistemology: first, understanding the relative motion of history and knowledge, and second, gathering past and present in an explosive interrelation, generating a flash of Jetztzeit, the time of the now. Concretely, it is clear that Benjamin wanted to apply the surrealists’ “profane illumination” to historical writing, to deploy the alienated artifacts of a recent past to break up conventional historiography’s commonsense epistemologies and inert temporal imaginaries, stupid and stupefying. But a stable definition of the “dialectical image” has proved elusive: generations of Benjaminians have struggled with the term as it oscillates between singular and plural, subjective and objective, method and metaphor, materialist construction and autonomous historical emanation. Moreover, the stakes for the dialectical image are set so high that Benjamin’s own thought-images and historical objets trouvés — the July Revolutionaries turning their guns on the public clocks, say, or the flâneur at Notre Dame de Lorette, remembering with the soles of his feet, “like an ascetic animal” — have seemed inadequate, even paltry, next to the vaunted concept.

    Friedlander’s interpretation here is radical and univocal. There is one dialectical image, and its name is The Arcades Project. In Friedlander’s reconstellation of Benjamin’s work, the concept becomes the capstone of a metaphysical system, an homage to and elaboration of Benjamin’s famous, near-posthumous observation:

    There is a secret agreement between past generations and the present one. Our coming was expected on earth. Like every generation that preceded us, we have been endowed with a weak Messianic power, a power to which the past has a claim.

    Reflecting on his method, Friedlander alludes to Benjamin’s notion of “origin,” developed in The Origin of the German Tragedy: not the start of a linear development, but an intense vortex of transformation, in which elements of the past undergo a complex process of rearrangement and recognition, disappearance and endurance. Via restructuring, the dialectical image — Benjamin’s work — appears as a higher form of origin, a node of immanent intensity in which the potentiality of created nature is made manifest, and truth and life are concentrated and brought forth anew. Time is crucial in this reading: it is more than the subject of Benjamin’s philosophy, it is the medium in and with which it works. The Arcades Project, dialectical image of history, is a temporal artifact, first by virtue of the time crystallized in its monadic dream-images, and second as the arrangement of preserved time “held out into the stream of homogenous time,” a material intervention in an overwhelmingly historicist episteme.

    It is the forceful insistence of these metaphysical claims that, more than anything else, distinguishes Friedlander’s book from other recent unpackings of Benjamin’s philosophical baggage, as his intervention commits itself to an extraordinary degree, venturing far beyond the safe ground of academic analysis. In this reading, Benjamin’s amalgam of temporalities fabricates a framework for the manifestation of “divine force,” the display of “divine power.” The divine here, as with the “messianic reduction,” is not a transcendent or static godly presence; it inheres in the weave of earthly existence, immanent and intensive. Crucially, however, Friedlander’s reparative vitalism is also a work of memory. The creation of the dialectical image bids farewell to the past in order that life — bare life, creaturely life, inorganic life, historical life — can go on. To put it in terms worn down from overuse — and at the risk of banalizing a book that is, whatever else, hardly banal — the force within Benjamin’s work enables a coming to terms with the past. While never made entirely explicit, it is not hard to read Friedlander’s book, above all his concluding chapter, as a response to the concrete atrocities and losses of twentieth-century history, with theories of trauma and memory wrought into a philosophy of history in which Benjamin’s work serves as the central mediating device.

    Friedlander’s apparatus of mediation, with its intricate internal workings, is passionate testimony to the enduring generative power of Benjamin’s writing. But it is impossible not to notice everything absent or removed from the system built here. Among the absences is the Arcades Project’s concrete content: those who haven’t read that book will learn little about its historical subject matter, whose dialectical passage into conceptuality seems uniformly and problematically smooth. Neither the reasons for Benjamin’s choice of material, nor the political stakes of his work, then or now, ever becomes clear. Granted, it posits a construction of truth in one sense — located in the dialectics of recognition that passes between past and present — but historically specific regimes of truth are neither a fact nor a problem. The power that invests knowledge here is of a spiritual and divine order, emphatically not a social or socio-epistemological one. And as truth is re-enthroned, problems of textuality evaporate. In Friedlander’s systematization, Benjamin’s prose is put through an ascetic filter, its conceptuality emerging largely without remainder, its language tending always towards a higher univocality. Most of Benjamin’s thought-images are stripped away or stripped down to their semantic core: when they occasionally sneak back in, they are often newly startling.

    Profane aspects of Benjamin’s work cannot survive this angelic atmosphere. As the work becomes the oeuvre and the oeuvre becomes the system, it becomes unimaginable that Benjamin could sometimes have changed his mind, or occasionally might have been wrong. Benjamin becomes a great natural given, to be explored like a cave system or a new continent. The writings of the author of “The Author as Producer” have no — and can have no — context of production here. Maybe none of these mere particularities, the shabby concrete stuff, count as “philosophical.” But if so, it is because the term is defined to exclude them. The multiple begging of the question “what is philosophy?” comes to look like a rappel a l’ordre, as all the materiality of Benjamin’s works, and all their worldly imbrication, are de-constellated, sublated out, remembered away. We can guess at Brecht’s sardonic reaction: that the “divine force” discerned in the Arcades Project is nothing but the quickening pulse of the philosopher, hot on the scent of yet another interpretation of the world.

    5.

    One odd fact of Benjamin’s peripatetic life is that he never crossed the English Channel. (He sailed down it once, en route from Hamburg to Spain.) All the many journeys, all the years in Paris, and he never once went to Calais and took a boat for England. He was never in London, the rival “capital of the nineteenth century” just a couple of hundred miles away. In the last months of his life, his ex-wife Dora begged him to come over: it would have saved his life, but instead he went south, waited around in Marseilles with the other transitoires, stopped in Lourdes for a while before heading for the Pyrenees. But in one way at least, London was his future. In the late 1930s, along with Dora, Benjamin’s twenty-year old son Stefan had also come to Britain. Their escape was a relief to Benjamin, whose late correspondence worries about their fate, first in Italy, later in Austria. London seemed for the moment like a much safer refuge, where Stefan could complete his disrupted education, and maybe even, Benjamin hopes in a letter to Scholem, be given a British passport. For Dora, things worked out — until her death two decades later, she ran a boarding house in Notting Hill. But some anomaly in Stefan’s case led to a mysterious turn of events. A footnote in the Letters reports that in 1941 he was expelled from the country as an “enemy alien.” He was deported by ship to Australia, a journey on which he was placed, according to Scholem, under “German Nazi” authority and traumatized by their brutal mistreatment. After the war, he somehow returned to London, where he became an antiquarian book dealer: the son taking up, professionally, the father’s amateur bibliomania. He died in 1972, Benjamin’s other posterity.

    j’ajoute 1 titre : walter benjamin1892-1940 par hannah arendt, chez allia (6euros10)


  • Walter Benjamin 1/4
    Quatre émissions des Nouveaux chemins de la connaissance
    http://www.franceculture.fr/emission-les-nouveaux-chemins-de-la-connaissance-walter-benjamin-14-bi

    http://blog.fnac.ch/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Walter-Benjamin_0.jpg

    Nouvelle diffusion de la semaine du 10 au 14 octobre 2011

    A l’occasion d’une semaine consacrée à Walter Benjamin, Adèle Van Reeth reçoit Philippe Ivernel à propos de la biographie et des correspondances de Walter Benjamin.


  • Automne 1939, Walter Benjamin, dans un camp proche de Nevers (Alain Paire)
    http://www.galerie-alain-paire.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=162:automne-1939-w

    Septembre 1939, la seconde guerre mondiale est déclarée. Des affiches dans les rues, des placards dans les journaux font savoir aux ressortissants étrangers, principalement aux exilés allemands et autrichiens venus chercher refuge dans « la patrie des droits de l’homme », qu’ils doivent se rendre dans des camps de « rassemblement ». (...) Source : Alain Paire


  • #Walter_Benjamin Archives
    http://walterbenjaminarchives.mahj.org/index.php

    http://walterbenjaminarchives.mahj.org/image/Walter-Benjamin-Archives-affiche.jpg

    Une exposition de l’Akademie der Künste de Berlin, de la Hamburger Stiftung zur Förderung von Wissenschaft und Kultur, et du Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme

    L’expo que je voulais voir, mais j’ai trop tardé (s’est finie avant-hier). Je me rattrape tant bien que mal avec le site, où l’on trouve notamment une carte de ses pérégrinations parisiennes, un abécédaire etc. Au hasard :

    U - #utopie
    http://walterbenjaminarchives.mahj.org/abecedaire-84-utopie.php
    « Dans le rêve où chaque époque se dépeint la suivante, celle-ci apparaît mêlée d’éléments venus de l’histoire primitive, c’est-à-dire d’une société sans classes. Déposées dans l’inconscient collectif, les expériences de cette société se conjuguent aux réalités nouvelles pour donner naissance à l’utopie, dont on retrouve la trace en mille figures de la vie, dans les édifices durables comme dans les modes passagères. » [Œuvres « Paris, capitale du XIXe siècle »]

    Dans les liens, ce site à l’ancienne :
    http://patder.chez.com/index.htm
    Dialectiques - Site consacré à l’#école_de_francfort et à la #théorie_critique


  • Critique du progrès | Sophie Wahnich (Vacarme)
    http://www.vacarme.org/article1957.html

    Il n’y a pas de progrès moral, ni de progrès politique. L’homme est un animal perfectible et l’humanité ne progresse pas. Refuser cette contradiction, c’est refuser d’ouvrir les yeux. Mais comment faire de la critique du progrès autre chose qu’un argument réactionnaire ? En suivant ici Edgar Quinet et Walter Benjamin pour prôner à leur suite un pessimisme actif autrement libérateur que l’optimisme progressiste béat qui ne fait que nous rendre sans voix face à la misère du présent. Car ce pessimisme-là suppose un autre rapport à l’histoire, rompant avec la nostalgie ou l’indifférence, pour y découvrir un réservoir de questions critiques ouvrant de nouvelles brèches vers l’avenir. (...) Source : Vacarme


  • Persistance de l’utopie -entretien avec Miguel Abensour | Sophie Wahnich (Vacarme)
    http://www.vacarme.org/article1955.html

    Avant d’être orientée vers le futur, l’utopie était échappée mentale dans un hors-lieu. En faire un rêve vers l’avant oblige à penser le devenir historique en accordant une place centrale à l’imaginaire politique. L’utopie devient la poésie de l’avenir, nécessaire pour faire advenir un monde tout autre. (...) Source : Vacarme

    • Quant à l’autre paradigme, je le trouve chez Walter Benjamin dans Paris Capitale du XIXe siècle. L’originalité de Benjamin tient à ce qu’il considère qu’on ne peut penser, interpréter l’histoire sans prendre en compte les dimensions oniriques d’une époque, ses rêves, ses projections, son imaginaire. De là, l’importance accordée à l’utopie, qu’il définit comme le précipité des rêves du collectif, lui conférant ainsi une épaisseur historique particulière.

      #Walter_Benjamin


  • lessons 2011 is that there is now no longer any difference between formal democracy and dictatorship; it’s simply a matter of degrees of repression.*

    Post-Anarchy | Adbusters Culturejammer Headquarters

    Capitalism burns all around us, leaving behind the debris of a bankrupt financial and political system. The illusion of limitless economic growth and the endless utopia of consumption have been forever shattered. Now governments have only austerity and hard times to offer us. Yet their assurances are wearing thin. Our political and economic masters know that people no longer believe in them, and behind the calm visage of power there is fear, fear of the specter of insurrection, the old fear that has haunted the imagination of every regime. Doesn’t everything – from the statements of politicians to the market predictions of economic gurus, to celebrity reality shows – now have a slight air of desperation, as if the entire spectacular-capitalist system (a system which in any case no longer even believes in itself and probably never did) is terrified lest it reveal the nihilism behind its facade?

    One of the lessons from these insurrections – and there are many – is that there is now no longer any difference between formal democracy and dictatorship; it’s simply a matter of degrees of repression. The power of the police, whose ghostly presence in the life of democratic states Walter Benjamin saw as devastating, is felt everywhere. What is the difference between Mubarak’s or Assad’s attempts to shut down social networking sites in Egypt and Syria, and Cameron’s threat to do the same in the UK?

    http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/99/politics-post-anarchism.html


  • Le Magazine Littéraire : Walter Benjamin, l’art de l’épars
    http://www.magazine-litteraire.com/content/rss/article?id=20128

    Les archives Walter-Benjamin de Berlin, sous la direction d’Erdmut Wizisla, ont eu l’idée de dévoiler le parcours du philosophe en montrant comment il organisait minutieusement l’établissement et la préservation de ses propres archives au fur et à mesure que progressait son travail. Manuscrits, cartes postales - essentielles chez l’homme qui a raconté ses flâneries parisiennes -, photographies, coupures de presse, bouts de papier ont été rassemblés par l’écrivain et envoyés à ses amis les plus chers - Scholem, Adorno, Horkheimer, Arendt, Brecht... Cette attitude répond à deux nécessités, l’une biographique, l’autre méthodologique...


  • L’oeuvre d’art à l’époque de sa reproduction mécanisée | Walter Benjamin (La Revue des Ressources)
    http://www.larevuedesressources.org/spip.php?article1976

    L’essai de Walter Benjamin L’Œuvre d’art à l’époque de sa reproduction mécanisée est l’un des textes les plus célèbres de la littérature photographique allemande de l’entre-deux-guerres. Il est également connu en français sous un titre un peu différent : L’Œuvre d’art à l’époque de sa reproductibilité technique. Dans ce texte, Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) reprend à son compte le débat qui agite alors les historiens de l’art allemands sur la survivance de l’art au temps des moyens de reproductions mécaniques en étudiant la manière dont l’intégrité de l’œuvre se trouve ainsi modifiée, voire menacée. (...)