cover image Radio Benjamin

Radio Benjamin

Walter Benjamin, edited by Lecia Rosenthal, trans. from the German by Jonathan Lutes, Lisa Harries Schumann, and Diana Reese. Verso (Norton, dist.), $29.95 (432p) ISBN 978-1-78168-575-4

This ebullient compendium collects Benjamin’s heretofore obscure and mostly untranslated radio broadcasts aired between 1927 and 1933. The majority were written for children, though there are a handful of literary musings, radio dramas, practical advice, and reflections on radio that aimed at adults as well. In his Berlin Youth Hour broadcasts, Benjamin addresses Berlin’s historical inheritance and cultural milieu, including its dialects, notable figures, architecture, and even its puppet theater. Benjamin also darkly recounts a number of historical catastrophes. In both their tone and mesmerizing array of subject matter, the broadcasts avoid the treacly condescension of contemporary children’s programming. This collection’s knowledgeable and deeply humanizing accounts of Berlin’s physical and cultural landscape illuminate a world that was, much like Benjamin himself, destroyed by the violence of WWII. Rosenthal delicately establishes context while letting the pieces speak for themselves and acknowledges what is irretrievably lost. The editor and translators reveal Benjamin as a person, not just a thinker, and highlight his raconteur’s finesse. (Oct.)