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Illuminations: Essays and Reflections (1968)

by Walter Benjamin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,891203,911 (4.26)39
Includes one essay on art and another on the philosophy of history.
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» See also 39 mentions

English (19)  Swedish (1)  All languages (20)
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
I found this dense and difficult. Maybe it's me. Maybe it's the translation (by Zohn). ( )
  KENNERLYDAN | Jul 11, 2021 |
Walter Benjamin is a name, a thinker that I've encountered over and over throughout my years of reading--yet, I've never read his work directly. This, then, was my first experience with the German polymath. Hannah Arendt's 51-page introduction is one of the finest introductions I've ever read-scholarly, compassionate, engaging; it is not to be skipped, though I suggest that it be read after the compendium of Benjamin's essays. Arendt sheds light on the crucial fact that Benjamin was nearly unclassifiable, especially in his lifetime. He did literary criticism but was not a literary critic; he engaged in theological discourse, but was not a theologian, etc. This (or perhaps Harry Zohn's translation) could account for what I feel to be a lack of congruence in these essays. Out of all 10 essays, I felt that I was in a jungle of thoughts, only to happen upon shining treasure once in a while. I've included some examples below. Overall, his thoughts were stimulating, though they may not last. The best of the lot were his essay on Proust and the essay on art during the age of mass-production, the latter of which I will be returning to when I concentrate on William Gaddis's [b:The Recognitions|11786836|The Recognitions|William Gaddis|https://d2arxad8u2l0g7.cloudfront.net/books/1348605197s/11786836.jpg|1299804] for my dissertation.

Examples:

Unpacking My Library
- "...the mild boredom of order" (59).
- "Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the [book] collector's passion borders on the chaos of memories" (60).
- "Writers are really people who write books...because they are dissatisfied with the books which they...do not like" (61).
- A theme in this essay, as in others, is that the collector exists inside the collection; the collection possesses the collector.

The Task of the Translator
- "Languages are not strangers to one another, but are, a priori and apart from all historical relationships, interrelated in what they want to express" (72).
- "Where a text is identical with truth or dogma, where it is supposed to be the 'true language' in all its literalness and without the mediation of meaning, this text is unconditionally translatable. In such case translations are called for only because of the plurality of languages" (82).

The Image of Proust
- "...from the honeycombs of memory he built a house for the swarm of his thoughts" (203).

The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
- "A man who concentrates before a work of art is absorbed by it...the distracted mass absorbs the work of art" (239). ( )
  chrisvia | Apr 29, 2021 |
Benjamin (pronounced BEN-ya-mean) is one of those writers you just can't help loving in a sort of "oh poor Walter" way. His longing for an "aura" even as it seems to be dissolving before his very eyes is so likable and so tragic that you just want to give the guy a hug.

Certainly his life's tragedy leans over the edge of the reader's shoulder and one really can't separate the ideas in these essays from the idea of Walter Benjamin: a guy who's been dealt none of the right cards, can't figure himself to be an employee, who just wants to be left alone to read great books, write great essays, and to lead the life of an homme de lettres, and of course, the final tragedy of his bad luck, when he's off by a single day. I can relate to his frustrations, as well as to the seeming impossibility of leading the life he wanted.

Poor, poor Benjamin. ( )
  Adrian_Astur_Alvarez | Dec 3, 2019 |
Benjamin (pronounced BEN-ya-mean) is one of those writers you just can't help loving in a sort of "oh poor Walter" way. His longing for an "aura" even as it seems to be dissolving before his very eyes is so likable and so tragic that you just want to give the guy a hug.

Certainly his life's tragedy leans over the edge of the reader's shoulder and one really can't separate the ideas in these essays from the idea of Walter Benjamin: a guy who's been dealt none of the right cards, can't figure himself to be an employee, who just wants to be left alone to read great books, write great essays, and to lead the life of an homme de lettres, and of course, the final tragedy of his bad luck, when he's off by a single day. I can relate to his frustrations, as well as to the seeming impossibility of leading the life he wanted.

Poor, poor Benjamin. ( )
  Adrian_Astur_Alvarez | Dec 3, 2019 |
For every second of time was the strait gate through which the Messiah might enter.

There are hardly enough superlatives for this amazing collection of essays concerning Baudelaire, Proust, Kafka, messianism and the aesthetic tension between the cultic and the exhibitional. I had read Unpacking My Library a half dozen times previously and it still forces me to catch my breath. The thoughts on Kafka explore the mystical as well as the shock of the modern. The shock of the urban and industrial is a recurring theme in these pieces. Likewise is the dearth of actual experience and the onslaught of involuntary memory. It was a strange juxtaposition that this very morning I put down Illuminations and was enjoying my breakfast. Before me in the recent Bookforum was an article by Geoff Dyer about August Sander's People of the Twentieth Century https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/473219.August_Sander_1876_1964. Benjamin's idea of aura has likely morphed into something strange over the intervening 70 odd years.

( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Walter Benjaminprimary authorall editionscalculated
Anthony, RobertCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Arendt, HannahEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ījabs, IvarsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bisenieks, ValdisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rubene, MāraEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Unseld, SiegfriedRedakteursecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wieseltier, LeonIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zohn, HarryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Includes one essay on art and another on the philosophy of history.

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