WALTER BENJAMIN: Selected Writings Volume 4: 1938–1940

Walter Benjamin, Author, Howard Eiland, Editor, Michael William Jennings, Editor . Harvard Univ. $39.95 (477p) ISBN 978-0-674-01076-5

The appearance of this volume marks the completion of a grand project, bringing a fully representative set of texts by German critic Benjamin (1892–1940) into English; volume 4 joins the first three installments along with The Arcades Project, Benjamin's massive set of meditations on 19th-century Paris. While this volume has fewer surprises than earlier sets, it does include the third and final version of "The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility"; the previously untranslated "Germans of 1789"; the famed, explosive "On the Concept of History"; "The Paris of the Second Empire of Baudelaire" (which introduces the figure of the flaneur); and, among other texts touching on Baudelaire, "Central Park," constructed of serial aphorisms and literary observations. A number of reviews and epistolary exchanges with Adorno give a fuller picture of this period, as does the fine chronology at the book's end. Eiland, lecturer in literature at MIT, and Princeton University German professor Jennings show Benjamin caught within a Europe convulsed by Nazism, placing him in exile in Denmark (with Brecht), in a transit camp on the outskirts of Paris and, finally, on the French-Spanish border. Benjamin's apparent suicide in a hotel on the Spanish side came after he was told that the border was closed and that his party would be returned to France the next day. These events are handled with extreme care by the editors, as are Benjamin's marvelous works, which remain inimitable and irreplaceable. (June)

Reviewed on: 06/02/2003
Release date: 06/01/2003
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