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Berliner Kindheit um neunzehnhundert by…

Berliner Kindheit um neunzehnhundert

by Walter Benjamin

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293457,531 (4.01)3
Title:Berliner Kindheit um neunzehnhundert
Authors:Walter Benjamin
Info:Suhrkamp Verlag GmbH
Collections:Your library
Tags:lang:de, autobiografie

Work details

Berlin Childhood around 1900 by Walter Benjamin

  1. 00
    Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald (aileverte)
    aileverte: Sebald shares with Benjamin a keen sensitivity to the sensory aspects of the most neglected things and places, allowing them to unfold the secret layers of their history and their mythology, thus retracing an invisible nerve network that connects them often in uncanny ways.… (more)
  2. 00
    The Nature of Things by Francis Ponge (aileverte)
    aileverte: As an epigraph to the translator's Foreword, Howard Eiland used a quote from "On Hashish" which encapsulates the essence of Benjamin's small book: "I'd like to write something that comes from things the way wine comes from grapes." The same sensuous attentiveness to objects can be found in the poetry of Francis Ponge, although with the added spice of the poet's wry humor.… (more)

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Showing 2 of 2
About the thinking and feeling of a boy, who, in spite of being grown up in a steady, materially safeguarded parental home, feels himself lonely at an early stage. Due to this fact, Benjamin conceives his own position throughout live as extremely labile.
  hbergander | Apr 4, 2011 |
I'm certain I haven't read any Walter Benjamin since college, although I always recall "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" quite fondly. This is a series of very short descriptions of his memories of childhood. Despite being very narrow in focus -- he's a young child so many of the remembered incidents are specific to his own home and his family, they do come together to give you a very ephemeral sense of life in Berlin at this time. This fascinated me a lot -- it's as if you catch glimpses of Berlin much like a person might remember only brief impressions of a place he or she experienced as a small child. He's pretty upfront about the fact that his family's Berlin life was more comfortable than most, too. Benjamin wrote this series when he was living outside of Germany in the late 30s, unable to return because of his Jewish background. A few years later, he was trying to get to the US, and killed himself when his traveling party was stopped at the French border. The details are a little murky, but it would seem the premise was that he didn't want to risk deportation to Germany. This is the first complete English collection of Berlin Childhood and it also includes a few pieces that were original to the manuscript, but edited out by Benjamin before publication. It's not in the text, and it's quite possible I'm projecting it myself, but I believe this book does have the feel of something written about a very beloved time and place, with an added urgency and confusion about the current state of things. "You can't go home again" is a common enough theme, but you feel the special keenness of that in this book.

Grade: B+
Recommended: Benjamin translated Proust for German publication, and you definitely get the idea that Berlin Childhood owes a lot to Remembrance of Things Past (although not in length). The episodes are extremely philosophical and contemplative, they aren't the "funny things I did as a kid" type. This would probably be enjoyed by people who like Proust and/or Rilke, or have a specific interest in German life during this period. Oh, it's probably also much more satisfying to read if you have the leisure to sit back and allow time for your own musings on the topics raised, I get the feeling it would be a particularly frustrating book to rush through.
1 vote delphica | Nov 15, 2007 |
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Im Jahre 1932, als ich im Ausland war, begann mir klar zu werden, daß ich in Bälde einen längeren, vielleicht einen dauernden Abschied von der Stadt, in der ich geboren bin, würde nehmen müssen.
O braungebackene Siegessäule mit Winterzucker aus den Kindertagen.
Here reigned a type of furniture that, having capriciously incorporated styles of ornament from different centuries, was thoroughly imbued with itself and its own duration. Poverty could have no place in these rooms, where death itself had none. ... That is why they appeared so cozy by day and became the scene of bad dreams at night.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 067402222X, Paperback)

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, flaneur, and allegorist in one.

This book is also one of Benjamin's great city texts, bringing to life the cocoon of his childhood--the parks, streets, schoolrooms, and interiors of an emerging metropolis. It reads the city as palimpsest and labyrinth, revealing unexpected lyricism in the heart of the familiar.

As an added gem, a preface by Howard Eiland discusses the genesis and structure of the work, which marks the culmination of Benjamin's attempt to do philosophy concretely.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:16 -0400)

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