On this day in 1892, German philosopher Walter Benjamin was born, a man of words whose life was devoted to writing and philosophy after being rejected by the German Army due to incompetence. Best known for his essay writing and literary criticism, he was a translator of French authors such as Charles Baudelaire and Marcel […]Birth of Walter Benjamin — Trあnslator’s magazine
Reading notes Cambridge dictionary: Ectoplasm = a substance that is believed to surround ghosts and other creatures that are connected with spiritual activities Oxford dictionary: Ectoplasm = a substance that is said to come from the body of somebody who is communicating with the spirit of a dead person, allowing the spirit to have a form […]
Ian Penman writes on the tragic life and enduring influence of the German literary critic …
In airport, we looked at how Augé’s non-places are maybe not so ‘non’. They are places not merely of circulation, communication and consumption but creativity too. This suggests perhaps a further liminal characteristic of non-places – their identity is not merely singular but multiple; and these identities blur. It is a view proposed by Peter Merriman in […]
One of the acknowledged precursors of Surrealism, the work of French caricaturist J.J Grandville was featured in Documents magazine and is discussed at length in Walter Benjamin’s vast and fragmentary study of the urban redevelopment of Paris by Baron Haussmann, The Arcades Project (Passagen-Werk). He rose to fame in 1828 with Les Métamorphoses du jour, a book with […]
Shot on location in Paris by Danish film Director Torben Skjødt Jensen, this highly atmospheric and engaging film as written and narrated by Ulf Peter Hallberg, provides an overview of Walter Benjamin’s life and work as well as some fabulous images of the Paris arcades.
Originally posted on YouTube by Jo Takahashi
In my last blog I discussed the act of walking and in particular the figure of the flâneuse in Ruth Orkin’s famous 1951 photograph of a woman walking in Florence. I also briefly touched on the ambulant subjects in Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and I want to […]
… The modern age, Benjamin suggests, is defined by this sense of the precariousness of the past. Where history and tradition were once things to be handed down, generation by generation, they are now fleeting presences, which must be trapped in the same way birds or ghosts are trapped—deviously, by sideways approaches. “To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognise it ‘the way it really was,’ ” he writes. “It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger.” …
– From Walter Benjamin’s genius for surreal visions by Adam Kirsch as found at: https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/other/flights-of-the-dream-bird
I have a distant recollection of walking all the way from the Gare du Nord to lunch in the Café Marly by way of the nineteenth-century arcades so beloved of Walter Benjamin. I tried to reconstruct this journey in reverse, starting in the Galerie Vivienne not far from Adrien Gardère’s office:-
A fabulous piece of flânerie and visual tour of Benjamin’s Passages by Charles Robert Saumarez Smith via Passages — | Charles | Saumarez | Smith |
The Arcades book [Das Passagen-Werk] was never intended to be an economic history (though part of its ambition was to act as a corrective to the entire discipline of economic history). An early sketch suggests something far more like his autobiographical work, A Berlin Childhood [:] “One knew of places in ancient Greece where the way led down into the underworld. Our waking existence likewise is a land which, at certain hidden points, leads down into the underworld – a land full of inconspicuous places from which dreams arise. All day long, suspecting nothing, we pass them by, but no sooner has sleep come than we are groping our way back to lose ourselves in the dark corridors. By day, the labyrinth of urban dwelling resembles consciousness; the arcades… issue unremarked on to the streets. At night, however, under the tenebrous mass of the houses, their denser darkness protrudes like a threat, and the nocturnal pedestrian hurries past – unless, that is, we have emboldened him to turn into a narrow lane.”
Two books served Benjamin as models: Louis Aragon’s A Paris Peasant, with its affectionate tribute to the Passage de L’Opéra, and Franz Hessel’s Strolling in Berlin, which focuses on the Kaisergalerie and its power to summon up the feel of a bygone era. In his book, Benjamin would try to capture the “phantasmagoric” experience of the Parisian wandering among displays of goods, an experience still recoverable in his own day, when “arcades dot the metropolitan landscape like caves containing the fossil remains of a vanished monster: the consumer of the pre-imperial era of capitalism, the last dinosaur of Europe”.
An extract from JM Coetzee’s highly engaging essay on Walter Benjamin: ‘The man who went shopping for truth’ as found at:
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2001/jan/20/history.society as accessed 30 September 2017-09-30