Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 2, Part 2: 1931-1934 / Edition 1

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Overview

In the frenzied final years of the Weimar Republic, amid economic collapse and mounting political catastrophe, Walter Benjamin emerged as the most original practicing literary critic and public intellectual in the German-speaking world. Volume 2 of the Selected Writings is now available in paperback in two parts.

In Part 1, Benjamin is represented by two of his greatest literary essays, "Surrealism" and "On the Image of Proust," as well as by a long article on Goethe and a generous selection of his wide-ranging commentary for Weimar Germany's newspapers.

Part 2 contains, in addition to the important longer essays, "Franz Kafka," "Karl Kraus," and "The Author as Producer," the extended autobiographical meditation "A Berlin Chronicle," and extended discussions of the history of photography and the social situation of the French writer, previously untranslated shorter pieces on such subjects as language and memory, theological criticism and literary history, astrology and the newspaper, and on such influential figures as Paul Valery, Stefan George, Hitler, and Mickey Mouse.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review

[Praise for the one-volume hardcover edition]

For those who know only the small selection of essays and longer texts previously translated into English, this book may be a revelation. Selected Writings: Volume 2 spanning the period from his abandonment of academia and his emergence as an important literary journalist in 1927 to his near silencing after the Nazis seized power and his exile in 1934, shows the writer at his sparkling best.
— Paul Mattick

The Observer

[Praise for the one-volume hardcover edition]

The period from 1927 to 1934 spanned in this volume was for Walter Benjamin both grievous and fertile...The range of topics and perspectives is immense. It extends from considerations on kitsch and pornography to repeated encounters, personal or indirect, with Gide, Kierkegaard and surrealism. The cultural history of toys fascinates Benjamin as he records his own Berlin childhood. Insights into 'Left-Wing Melancholy' alternate with thoughts on Mickey Mouse, on Chaplin, and on graphology.
— George Steiner

The Guardian

This awesome 800-page collection demonstrates that Benjamin was able to pack more thought into the years 1931–34 than most people manage in a lifetime...Altogether indispensable.
— Steven Poole

Washington Post Book World

After the lede comes the body of the essay, where the meat is served up. When a critic as astute as German man of letters Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) writes about a subject as rich as his fellow journalist Karl Kraus (1874-1936), the cut can be rich, marbled and juicy...Topics in other pieces gathered here range from highbrow analysis ('Criticism as the Fundamental Discipline of Literary History') to pop-culture commentary ('Reflections on Radio,' 'Mickey Mouse').
— Dennis Drabelle

New York Times Book Review - Paul Mattick

[Praise for the one-volume hardcover edition]

For those who know only the small selection of essays and longer texts previously translated into English, this book may be a revelation. Selected Writings: Volume 2 spanning the period from his abandonment of academia and his emergence as an important literary journalist in 1927 to his near silencing after the Nazis seized power and his exile in 1934, shows the writer at his sparkling best.

The Observer - George Steiner

[Praise for the one-volume hardcover edition]

The period from 1927 to 1934 spanned in this volume was for Walter Benjamin both grievous and fertile...The range of topics and perspectives is immense. It extends from considerations on kitsch and pornography to repeated encounters, personal or indirect, with Gide, Kierkegaard and surrealism. The cultural history of toys fascinates Benjamin as he records his own Berlin childhood. Insights into 'Left-Wing Melancholy' alternate with thoughts on Mickey Mouse, on Chaplin, and on graphology.

The Guardian - Steven Poole
This awesome 800-page collection demonstrates that Benjamin was able to pack more thought into the years 1931–34 than most people manage in a lifetime...Altogether indispensable.
Washington Post Book World - Dennis Drabelle
After the lede comes the body of the essay, where the meat is served up. When a critic as astute as German man of letters Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) writes about a subject as rich as his fellow journalist Karl Kraus (1874-1936), the cut can be rich, marbled and juicy...Topics in other pieces gathered here range from highbrow analysis ('Criticism as the Fundamental Discipline of Literary History') to pop-culture commentary ('Reflections on Radio,' 'Mickey Mouse').
The Guardian
This awesome 800-page collection demonstrates that Benjamin was able to pack more thought into the years 1931–34 than most people manage in a lifetime...Altogether indispensable.
— Steven Poole
The Observer
[Praise for the one-volume hardcover edition]

The period from 1927 to 1934 spanned in this volume was for Walter Benjamin both grievous and fertile...The range of topics and perspectives is immense. It extends from considerations on kitsch and pornography to repeated encounters, personal or indirect, with Gide, Kierkegaard and surrealism. The cultural history of toys fascinates Benjamin as he records his own Berlin childhood. Insights into 'Left-Wing Melancholy' alternate with thoughts on Mickey Mouse, on Chaplin, and on graphology.
— George Steiner

New York Times Book Review
[Praise for the one-volume hardcover edition]

For those who know only the small selection of essays and longer texts previously translated into English, this book may be a revelation. Selected Writings: Volume 2 spanning the period from his abandonment of academia and his emergence as an important literary journalist in 1927 to his near silencing after the Nazis seized power and his exile in 1934, shows the writer at his sparkling best.
— Paul Mattick

Washington Post Book World
After the lede comes the body of the essay, where the meat is served up. When a critic as astute as German man of letters Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) writes about a subject as rich as his fellow journalist Karl Kraus (1874-1936), the cut can be rich, marbled and juicy...Topics in other pieces gathered here range from highbrow analysis ('Criticism as the Fundamental Discipline of Literary History') to pop-culture commentary ('Reflections on Radio,' 'Mickey Mouse').
— Dennis Drabelle
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674017467
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 6/15/2005
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 1,026,219
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

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

Michael W. Jennings is Class of 1900 Professor of Modern Languages at Princeton University.

Gary Smith is an editor at work on the Einstein Papers project.

Howard Eiland teaches literature at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Table of Contents

The Destructive Character, 1931

In Parallel with My Actual Diary

Criticism as the Fundamental Discipline of Literary History

Critique of the New Objectivity

We Ought to Reexamine the Link between Teaching and Research

Hofmannsthal and Aleco Dossena

Left-Wing Melancholy

Theological Criticism

Karl Kraus

Literary History and the Study of Literature

German Letters

May-June 1931

Unpacking My Library

Franz Kafka: Beim Bau der Chinesischen Mauer

Diary from August 7, 1931, to the Day of My Death

Little History of Photography

Paul Valéry

The Lisbon Earthquake

The Destructive Character

Reflections on Radio

Mickey Mouse

In Almost Every Example We Have of Materialist Literary History

The Task of the Critic

Ibizan Sequence, 1932

Experience

On Ships, Mine Shafts, and Crucifixes in Bottles

On the Trail of Old Letters

A Family Drama in the Epic Theater

The Railway Disaster at the Firth of Tay

Privileged Thinking

Excavation and Memory

Oedipus, or Rational Myth

On Proverbs

Theater and Radio

Ibizan Sequence

A Berlin Chronicle

Spain, 1932

Light from Obscurantists

The Handkerchief

In the Sun

The Rigorous Study of Art

Hashish in Marseilles

The Eve of Departure

On Astrology

"Try to Ensure that Everything in Life Has a Consequence"

Notes (IV)

Thought Figures, 1933

The Lamp

Doctrine of the Similar

Short Shadows (II)

Kierkegaard

Stefan George in Retrospect

Agesilaus Santander (First Version)

Agesilaus Santander (Second Version)

Antitheses Concerning Word and Name

On the Mimetic Faculty

Thought Figures

Little Tricks of the Trade

Experience and Poverty

The Author's Producer, 1934

Once Is as Good as Never

The Newspaper

Venal but Unusable

The Present Social Situation of the French Writer

The Author as Producer

Notes from Svendborg, Summer 1934

Hitler's Diminished Masculinity

Franz Kafka

A Note on the Texts

Chronology, 1927-1934

Index

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