Berlin Childhood Around 1900

Walter Benjamin, Author, Howard Eiland, Translator Belknap Press $14.5 (192p) ISBN 978-0-674-02222-5
""Perhaps the mingling of the forgotten with the dust of our vanished dwellings is the secret of its survival,"" writes Benjamin in his beautiful book about the small things he remembers from his childhood in Berlin. Writing in Italy in 1932, Benjamin felt he might never again see the city of his childhood. Through descriptions of furniture, rooms, buildings, parks, objects and the slight interactions between boy and world, Benjamin explores the dichotomies of longing, remembering and forgetting. During his lifetime, Benjamin published several versions of the book, two of which (the 1932-34 and final versions) are included. Faithfulness to earlier editions leaves the book without a narrative arc, but doesn't detract from the artful mastery of the prose, which is preserved in the translation: ""In addition to the upper region of the box, where these spindles nestled side by side, where the black needlebook glimmered and the scissors lay sheathed in their leather pockets, there was the dark underground, the chaos, in which the loosened ball of thread reigned supreme, and in which pieces of elastic bands, hooks, eyes, and scraps of silk were jumbled together."" An introduction written by Peter Szondi in 1961 sets up a comparison with Proust's masterwork, and it is indeed easy to see traces of the influence in tone, stylistic mannerisms and theme. Like Remembrance of Things Past, this is a work that deserves to be rediscovered by every generation. 7 halftones.
Reviewed on: 04/03/2006
Release date: 04/01/2006
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