WALTER BENJAMIN: Selected Writings Volume 3: 1935–1938

Howard Eiland, Editor, Michael William Jennings, Editor, Walter Benjamin, Author . Harvard Univ. $39.95 (480p) ISBN 978-0-674-00896-0

Over the past few years, Harvard's systematic presentation of the work of German cultural critic Benjamin (1892–1940) has proved a revelation, including the first English translation of many minor texts that show him pioneering the denkbild (or prose "thought figure") that structures swaths of his work and, most wonderfully, the uncategorizable riches of The Arcades Project. This third of four planned volumes from MIT lecturer in literature Eiland and Jennings, professor of German at Princeton, offers two major texts that are new to English (translated from the German by various hands), as well as a fascinating re-translation of one of the cornerstones of Benjamin's reputation, here rendered as the essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility." The editors present the so-called "second version" of the essay, while the "third version" will appear in volume four; it's difficult to say at this point which will become the standard on campus for this oft-assigned text. But the real revelation is "Berlin Childhood around 1900," appearing for the first time in English, giving a window into the sophisticated phenomenological world of the young Benjamin as recalled by the older exile (and enhanced by several of the 12 halftones here). The piece takes its place alongside One-Way Street (volume one) and "A Berlin Chronicle" (volume two) as a major, short monograph-like work, though the two versions included here are somewhat confusingly presented. Other pieces will be familiar ("Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century"; "Brecht's Threepenny Novel"), but "German Men and Women," another short book in itself, won't be: this series of 27 letters dating from 1783 to 1883, selected and edited by Benjamin and published by the Frankfurter Zeitung in 1931–1932 (and as a book with introductory pieces by Benjamin in 1936), will be fascinating to anyone interested in Romantic literature and culture. In short, this is another splendid volume that will leave aficionados on campus and off awaiting the final installment. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 11/11/2002
Release date: 12/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 870 pages - 978-0-674-01746-7
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