BN.com Gift Guide

Berlin Childhood around 1900

Overview

Begun in Poveromo, Italy, in 1932, and extensively revised in 1938, Berlin Childhood around 1900 remained unpublished during Walter Benjamin's lifetime, one of his "large-scale defeats."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 ...

See more details below
Paperback
$12.11
BN.com price
(Save 30%)$17.50 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (15) from $5.73   
  • New (8) from $10.32   
  • Used (7) from $5.73   
Sending request ...

Overview

Begun in Poveromo, Italy, in 1932, and extensively revised in 1938, Berlin Childhood around 1900 remained unpublished during Walter Benjamin's lifetime, one of his "large-scale defeats."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.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Booklist

[Berlin Childhood around 1900] is a series of miniature portraits conjuring up people, objects, streets, and interior scenes that reveal his childhood in a wealthy, assimilated Jewish family in Berlin's West End at the turn of the century. In the letter to Gershom Scholem in 1932, Benjamin notes these childhood memories are not narratives in the form of a chronicle, but individual expeditions into the depths of memory. Benjamin is a writer who deserves our full attention.
— George Cohen

Los Angeles Times Book Review

Now is the time to read Walter Benjamin, when doors to the future are slamming shut around us and freedom dribbles out of a modern life that is squeezed by masses of information delivered at high speeds and by a rigid morality that circumscribes behavior, movement and thought...He intended his memoir Berlin Childhood Around 1900 as a goodbye to a city he loved but knew he could never again inhabit. Begun in Spain and Italy in 1932, it was finished in 1938 but wasn't published until 1950, 10 years after he died of an intentional overdose of morphine while fleeing the Gestapo. Benjamin regarded the book as a series of "expeditions into the depths of memory," an act of "digging" for the future.
— Susan Salter Reynolds

National Post

Benjamin has an affecting approach to the victories of childhood, exhibiting pleasure and regret at once...Benjamin was acutely aware of history—the history of ideas, the history of violence and fear, the history of commerce and objects. He annotated mentally whatever he saw, then dwelt on it till it became meaningful, maybe incandescent. He tried to see everyday life through the eyes of a mystic.
— Robert Fulford

Tikkun

Benjamin was a consummate polymath who wrote with erudition, playfulness, and compassion...In Berlin Childhood around 1900, Benjamin turns his scalpel on his childhood, Berlin, and the capricious faculty of memory...The reader stands awestruck as Benjamin flits effortlessly from memory to memory, from his mother's sewing box to the otter's cage at the Berlin Zoological Garden, seemingly unaware of the catastrophic shadow looming over him. In Benjamin's hands, the most pedestrian moments of an inward-facing, bourgeois childhood become revelations about discipline and ideology...As with Kafka, Benjamin's prose shines most brightly through the language of parable, the cliched, but somehow unexpected aphorism...His province is the truth we always knew but could never quite put into words, the eerily reminiscent description.
— Michael Lukas

Metapsychology

Berlin Childhood is not only an autobiographical text by the literary critic, historian and philosopher Walter Benjamin. Describing Berlin around 1900 from the point of view of a child that is introduced into the customs and way of life of society, it also explores a whole era in a nutshell, as Benjamin did on the grand scale in his Arcades Project. And, not least, this book examines the structure of an individual memory and its relation to history.

— Barbara Sattler

The Nation

The Proustian ideal of the redemption of 'lived experience' lies at the heart of Benjamin's idiosyncratic memoir, Berlin Childhood around 1900...In Berlin Childhood he offers us a cityscape of the German capital as seen through the eyes of a precocious and impressionable youth. He revisits his favorite childhood haunts—the zoos, swimming pools, grammar schools, parks and railway terminals—and milks them for utopian potential... In a sense, Benjamin regarded childhood much as he did modern literature: as an invaluable repository of utopian longings and dreams in an age of industrialized degradation. Berlin Childhood represents his own Proustian effort to recapture lost time, a time that any revolution worthy of the name would seek to restore.
— Richard Wolin

Institute of Contemporary Arts
Walter has been our philosophy pin up boy for a while now and this book is another jewel in his crown. An autobiography as a series of vignettes that concentrate on memory and how we understand not just ourselves but the cities and places we live in. Underlines the works he produced later in life with a profoundly personal understanding. Brilliant.
Times Literary Supplement

Benjamin's work continues to fascinate and delight because it has something for everyone: the literary critic, art historian, philosopher, urban theorist and architect. Whether he is talking about children's toys, Mickey Mouse, Surrealism, photography, or Kafka, Benjamin has a knack for figuring out what they can tell us about the wider world that produced them.
— Eric Bulson

Seven Oaks

All serious general readers should know something about Benjamin and his ideas...Harvard University Press is doing its best to make this a realistic goal.
— George Fetherling

AmeriQuests

Readers of Berlin Childhood will delight in Benjamin’s precise prose, rich in simile and metaphor...A Proust devotee and translator, Benjamin will appeal to enthusiasts of the French master. Intensely modern in its treatment of the city, in its unique approach to autobiography, Berlin Childhood, known only to Benjamin admirers for too long and available only recently in English, belongs in the cannon of classic 20th-century texts.

— Rachel Eve Nisselson

H-Net

Walter Benjamin’s autobiography of his early childhood is a welcome addition to the English language body of Benjamin’s work...Berlin Childhood around 1900 offers a rich portrait of Berlin at the turn of the twentieth century. Benjamin provides descriptive accounts of his experiences at famous landmarks, such as the Victory Column and the Tiergarten. His autobiography also provides an uncanny perspective of middle-class life in Berlin...While this autobiography focuses on Benjamin’s early childhood, it also profoundly speaks to Benjamin’s anxieties about living in exile and his precarious future...Benjamin’s is a rich autobiography that is translated well and provided with helpful notes by Eiland.
— Sara A. Sewell

London Review of Books
Begun in 1932 and extensively reworked between then and 1938, Benjamin's recollection of his childhood remained unpublished during his lifetime. Now available in English for the first time, this unconventional autobiography is of a piece with, and in some respects the culmination of, Benjamin's philosophical work. The three abiding aspects of his character--the flâneur, the allegorist and the collector--had already come together in Benjamin as a child.
The Stranger

Howard Eiland's translation...is incomparable.
— Charles Mudede

Theodor Adorno
Conceived in the early Thirties, the Berlin Childhood belongs in the orbit of that primal history of the modern world on which Benjamin was working during the last thirteen years of his life. It forms the subjective counterpart to the masses of materials brought together for the project on the Paris arcades. The historical archetypes he wished to lay out in their social-pragmatic and philosophical provenance in the study of Paris were to be illuminated by lightning flashes of immediate remembrance in the Berlin book, which throughout laments the irretrievability of what, once lost, congeals into an allegory of its own demise.
For the images this book unearths and brings strangely near are not idyllic and not contemplative. Over them lies the shadow of the Third Reich. And through them dreamily runs a shudder at the long forgotten.
Booklist - George Cohen
[Berlin Childhood around 1900] is a series of miniature portraits conjuring up people, objects, streets, and interior scenes that reveal his childhood in a wealthy, assimilated Jewish family in Berlin's West End at the turn of the century. In the letter to Gershom Scholem in 1932, Benjamin notes these childhood memories are not narratives in the form of a chronicle, but individual expeditions into the depths of memory. Benjamin is a writer who deserves our full attention.
Los Angeles Times Book Review - Susan Salter Reynolds
Now is the time to read Walter Benjamin, when doors to the future are slamming shut around us and freedom dribbles out of a modern life that is squeezed by masses of information delivered at high speeds and by a rigid morality that circumscribes behavior, movement and thought...He intended his memoir Berlin Childhood Around 1900 as a goodbye to a city he loved but knew he could never again inhabit. Begun in Spain and Italy in 1932, it was finished in 1938 but wasn't published until 1950, 10 years after he died of an intentional overdose of morphine while fleeing the Gestapo. Benjamin regarded the book as a series of "expeditions into the depths of memory," an act of "digging" for the future.
National Post - Robert Fulford
Benjamin has an affecting approach to the victories of childhood, exhibiting pleasure and regret at once...Benjamin was acutely aware of history--the history of ideas, the history of violence and fear, the history of commerce and objects. He annotated mentally whatever he saw, then dwelt on it till it became meaningful, maybe incandescent. He tried to see everyday life through the eyes of a mystic.
Tikkun - Michael Lukas
Benjamin was a consummate polymath who wrote with erudition, playfulness, and compassion...In Berlin Childhood around 1900, Benjamin turns his scalpel on his childhood, Berlin, and the capricious faculty of memory...The reader stands awestruck as Benjamin flits effortlessly from memory to memory, from his mother's sewing box to the otter's cage at the Berlin Zoological Garden, seemingly unaware of the catastrophic shadow looming over him. In Benjamin's hands, the most pedestrian moments of an inward-facing, bourgeois childhood become revelations about discipline and ideology...As with Kafka, Benjamin's prose shines most brightly through the language of parable, the cliched, but somehow unexpected aphorism...His province is the truth we always knew but could never quite put into words, the eerily reminiscent description.
Harvard Book Review - Jonathan Liu
Fifty years after its posthumous publication in German, this tidy volume of urban vignettes--memories of imperial landmarks and family vacations, school libraries and the arrival of the household telephone--has earned its own afterlife. The later writings of Roland Barthes are obvious descendents, and even Jacques Derrida's final fixations on hospitality and his native Algeria bear its trace, however unconsciously...[Here are] some of the most marvelous performances of a master stylist...Berlin Childhood around 1900 finally functions like all excavations of lost time: the little boy may be innocent, the remembered milieu yet to be complicated, but the effect is unquestionably narcotic.
Metapsychology - Barbara Sattler
Berlin Childhood is not only an autobiographical text by the literary critic, historian and philosopher Walter Benjamin. Describing Berlin around 1900 from the point of view of a child that is introduced into the customs and way of life of society, it also explores a whole era in a nutshell, as Benjamin did on the grand scale in his Arcades Project. And, not least, this book examines the structure of an individual memory and its relation to history.
The Nation - Richard Wolin
The Proustian ideal of the redemption of 'lived experience' lies at the heart of Benjamin's idiosyncratic memoir, Berlin Childhood around 1900...In Berlin Childhood he offers us a cityscape of the German capital as seen through the eyes of a precocious and impressionable youth. He revisits his favorite childhood haunts--the zoos, swimming pools, grammar schools, parks and railway terminals--and milks them for utopian potential... In a sense, Benjamin regarded childhood much as he did modern literature: as an invaluable repository of utopian longings and dreams in an age of industrialized degradation. Berlin Childhood represents his own Proustian effort to recapture lost time, a time that any revolution worthy of the name would seek to restore.
Times Literary Supplement - Eric Bulson
Benjamin's work continues to fascinate and delight because it has something for everyone: the literary critic, art historian, philosopher, urban theorist and architect. Whether he is talking about children's toys, Mickey Mouse, Surrealism, photography, or Kafka, Benjamin has a knack for figuring out what they can tell us about the wider world that produced them.
Seven Oaks - George Fetherling
All serious general readers should know something about Benjamin and his ideas...Harvard University Press is doing its best to make this a realistic goal.
AmeriQuests - Rachel Eve Nisselson
Readers of Berlin Childhood will delight in Benjamin’s precise prose, rich in simile and metaphor...A Proust devotee and translator, Benjamin will appeal to enthusiasts of the French master. Intensely modern in its treatment of the city, in its unique approach to autobiography, Berlin Childhood, known only to Benjamin admirers for too long and available only recently in English, belongs in the cannon of classic 20th-century texts.
H-Net - Sara A. Sewell
Walter Benjamin’s autobiography of his early childhood is a welcome addition to the English language body of Benjamin’s work...Berlin Childhood around 1900 offers a rich portrait of Berlin at the turn of the twentieth century. Benjamin provides descriptive accounts of his experiences at famous landmarks, such as the Victory Column and the Tiergarten. His autobiography also provides an uncanny perspective of middle-class life in Berlin...While this autobiography focuses on Benjamin’s early childhood, it also profoundly speaks to Benjamin’s anxieties about living in exile and his precarious future...Benjamin’s is a rich autobiography that is translated well and provided with helpful notes by Eiland.
The Stranger - Charles Mudede
Howard Eiland's translation...is incomparable.
Wall Street Journal - Yvonne Sherratt
Berlin Childhood is an extraordinary autobiography in which the 19th-century city comes alive, not through abstract analysis or even storytelling but through details like 'anthracite as it falls from the coal scuttle into a cast-iron stove, the dull pop of the flame as it ignites the brass mantle.' Benjamin transports us to the fragmented immediacy of childhood, the city breathing just beyond the confines of home.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674022225
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/2006
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 587,997
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) was the author of many works of literary and cultural analysis.

Howard Eiland teaches literature at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Translator's Foreword

"Hope in the Past: On Walter Benjamin"
by Peter Szondi

Berlin Childhood around 1900: Final Version

Loggias
• Imperial Panorama
• Victory Column
• The Telephone
• Butterfly Hunt
• Tiergarten
• Tardy Arrival
• Boys' Books
• Winter Morning
• At the Corner of Steglitzer and Genthiner
• Two Enigmas
• Market Hall
• The Fever
• The Otter
• Peacock Island and Glienicke
• News of a Death
• Blumeshof 12
• Winter Evening
• Crooked Street
• The Sock
• The Mummerehlen
• Hiding Places
• A Ghost
• A Christmas Angel
• Misfortunes and Crimes
• Colors
• The Sewing Box
• The Moon
• Two Brass Bands
• The Little Hunchback
• The Carousel
• Sexual Awakening

From the 1932-1934 Version

Departure and Return
• The Larder
• News of a Death
• The Mummerehlen
• Society
• The Reading Box
• Monkey Theater
• School Library
• New Companion of German Youth
• The Desk
• Cabinets
• Beggars and Whores
• The Moon

Complete Table of Contents, 1932-1934 Version

Notes

Credits for Illustrations

Index

Illustrations

Walter Benjamin and his brother Georg

The Victory Column on Königsplatz

The goldfish pond in the Tiergarten

Berlin's Tiergarten in winter

Market hall on Magdeburger Platz

Interior of a middle-class German home

Courtyard on Fischerstrasse in Old Berlin

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)