Monday, September 26, 2016

Walter Benjamin: Recent Writings

Walter Benjamin: Recent Writings
Vancouver, Canada/Los Angeles, USA: New Documents, 2013
216 pp., 10.7 × 17.6 cm., hardcover
Edition size unknown

"Seminal work. Full stop"
- Dejan Krsic, Amazon customer review

"There is obviously some error in the description of this book. Benjamin would have had to have been exhumed from his grave."
- Kyle, Amazon customer review

"What exactly do we make of a book of “recent writings” by a long-dead writer?"

- Rachel Wetzler, Los Angeles Review of Books

"My editor got the joke before I did; he said: “Explain this chronology? I smell a rat.” And then I started poring over the essays again, trying to discover what was original Benjamin, reprinted Benjamin, copied Benjamin, imitated Benjamin. Where did this new “Benjamin” agree with the Benjamin I know and love and where do they differ? So much of the book reads like straight solid Benjamin! I can’t figure out if the whole book is a copy or if half of it is reprinted interviews that actually took place—and I’m not supposed to. Foucault wrote a famous essay on Nietzsche that is composed almost entirely of unsourced, rephrased quotations from Nietzsche himself; Benjamin himself first suggested that the ideal academic essay would be composed of nothing but quotations, without any commentary from the author whatsoever. I’m left, like an ancient skeptic, at an aporia: no way through. The best response is to laugh at myself. Now there’s a good old-fashioned anti-dogmatic moral lesson."
- Clancy Martin, The Brooklyn Rail

"Although Recent Writings isn’t what most readers might consider “accessible,” it’s worth remembering that its author’s namesake also had a penchant for circuitousness. Both The Arcades Project and Berlin Childhood Around 1900 eulogizethe serendipitous discoveries that happen when lost, straying, or flaneuring. As a schoolchild, Benjamin the first often doodled labyrinths onto his textbooks. One of his formative memories was of losing his way among the twisting streets of Berlin during a storm. Another was becoming aware of a precocious erection –what he called the “first stirring of his sexual urge”—during an afternoon walk in which he couldn’t find the place he was looking for and missed his appointment. Nobody would describe Recent Writings as boner-inducing, but it does thrust us into unfamiliarity."

- Adam Leith Gollner, Hazlitt

Available from the publisher, here, for $30.00 US.

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