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By the Fireside
The solitary reader devours the novel, and the lives of its protagonists, as fire consumes the logs in a hearth; big business casts its shadow over a fading world: a life’s meaning is grasped by reflection on its end. In a hitherto untranslated 1933 review of Arnold Bennett’s Old Wives’ Tale, Benjamin reflects on the nature of storytelling and the novel.
1940 Survey of French Literature
Benjamin’s last, unpublished report on the literary situation in France. Critical reflections on the fiction, philosophy, memoirs and art criticism of the time—and on Paris, Surrealism and the logic of Hitlerism—moving constantly from the realm of letters to a world at war.
Goethe: The Reluctant Bourgeois
When Johann Wolfgang Goethe came into the world on 18 August 1749 in Frankfurt-am-Main, the town contained 30,000 inhabitants. In Berlin, the largest town in Germany at the time, there were 126,000, whereas both Paris and London had already surpassed 500,000. These figures are an important signpost to . . . read more
A Radio Talk on Brecht
There is always something deceitful in trying to talk about living writers impartially and objectively. Nor is this only a personal problem—though no one can help being affected in a thousand and one ways by the aura that surrounds a contemporary. The deception I have in mind is . . . read more
Surrealism: The Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia
Intellectual currents can generate a sufficient head of water for the critic to instal his power station on them. The necessary gradient, in the case of Surrealism, is produced by the difference in intellectual level between France and Germany. What sprang up in 1919 in France in a . . . read more
Conversations with Brecht
In a conversation a few evenings ago Brecht spoke of the curious indecision which at the moment prevents him from making any definite plans. As he is the first to point out, the main reason for this indecision is that his situation is so much more privileged than . . . read more