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Stamp Scams

Walter Benjamin, translated by Jeffrey Mehlman, 8 September 1994

... I want to speak about a domain which the most learned and cleverest experts in philately have yet to exhaust: the subject of fraud. Fraud involving stamps. Ever since 1840, when Rowland Hill, a simple schoolmaster, was knighted, granted a stipend of some 400,000 marks, and appointed Postmaster General by the British Government in recognition of his invention of the stamp, millions upon millions have been made thanks to that little scrap of paper ...

Pamphleteer’s Progress

Patrick Parrinder, 7 February 1985

The Function of Criticism: From the ‘Spectator’ to Post-Structuralism 
by Terry Eagleton.
Verso, 133 pp., £15, September 1984, 0 86091 091 1
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... theory. As major influences, Sartre, Williams, Lukacs, Goldmann, Anderson, Althusser, Macherey, Benjamin, Derrida and the feminist movement have followed one another in quick succession. The Function of Criticism, hard on the heels of The Rape of Clarissa and Literary Theory: An Introduction, marks if anything an intensification of this fleet-footed ...

Through the Trapdoor

Jeremy Harding: Walter Benjamin’s Last Day, 19 July 2007

The Narrow Foothold 
by Carina Birman.
Hearing Eye, 29 pp., £7, August 2006, 9781905082100
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... in a ‘women’s camp’ in Gurs, which had been holding refugees from Spain. (Hannah Arendt and Walter Benjamin’s sister Dora were also interned at Gurs, while Benjamin had spent several weeks in Vernuche.) As the Germans advanced deeper into France and the administration reeled, evasion or negotiated exit became a ...

An Unfinished Project

Fredric Jameson, 3 August 1995

The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin 1910-1940 
edited by Theodor Adorno and Manfred Jacobson, translated by Evelyn Jacobson.
Chicago, 651 pp., £39.95, May 1994, 0 226 04237 5
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T.W. Adorno/Walter BenjaminBriefwechsel 1928-40 
edited by Henri Lonitz.
Suhrkamp, 501 pp., DM 64, April 1994, 3 518 58174 0
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... Walter Benjamin was not a letter writer of the order of Lawrence or Flaubert, for whom the medium of the letter seems to fill a need, not for mere self-expression, but for some larger exercise of the personality in exasperation or enthusiasm, in that almost instinctive enlargement of reaction to things which others find in unmotivated physical activity ...

Sedan Chairs and Turtles

Leland de la Durantaye: Benjamin’s Baudelaire, 21 November 2013

Charles Baudelaire: Un poeta lirico nell’età del capitalismo avanzato 
by Walter Benjamin, edited by Giorgio Agamben, Barbara Chitussi and Clemens-Carl Härle.
Neri Pozza, 927 pp., €23, December 2012, 978 88 545 0623 7
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... On a spring day in 1940 Walter Benjamin gathered together the thousands of pages comprising his work of the last decade and carried them to his favourite place in Paris, the Bibliothèque nationale. When he got there he gave them to Georges Bataille, a head librarian there, for safekeeping. Hours before the German army entered Paris with an order to arrest him, Benjamin left the city with ‘nothing but a gas mask and my toiletries ...

Saint Terence

Jonathan Bate, 23 May 1991

Ideology: An Introduction 
by Terry Eagleton.
Verso, 242 pp., £32.50, May 1991, 0 86091 319 8
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... les événements and codified in Criticism and Ideology (1976); the second, inaugurated by Walter Benjamin, or Towards a Revolutionary Criticism (1981), is still firmly Marxist at base, but has a more flexible superstructure shaped by various brands of Post-Structuralism, most notably Deconstruction, feminism and, latterly, the carnivalesque of ...

The Everyday Business of Translation

George Steiner, 22 November 1979

The True Interpreter 
by Louis Kelly.
Blackwell, 282 pp., £15
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... work. Could there be a connection? On the philosophic front, thinkers such as I.A. Richards, Walter Benjamin, W.V.O. Quine have made of translation the centre of a theory of meaning. All communication between source and receptor, even within one’s native tongue, has been recognised as analogous to the model of meaning-transfer between ...

Boundaries

Martin Jay, 10 June 1993

Notes to Liteature: Vols I-II 
by Theodor Adorno, edited by Rolf Tiedemann, translated by Shierry Weber.
Columbia, 284 pp., $35, June 1992, 9780231069120
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... Realism in Our Time’, ‘Commitment’, ‘Trying to Understand Endgame’ and several pieces on Walter Benjamin – already exist in English and have had a significant impact on the reception of Adorno’s ideas. But the collection as a whole provides the first substantial evidence for those unable to turn to the original German that Adorno was a ...

Fundamentally Goyish

James Wood: Zadie Smith, 3 October 2002

The Autograph Man 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 420 pp., £16.99, September 2002, 0 241 13998 8
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... the ‘popular singer Madonna Ciccone’, as Smith has it, a tic that runs throughout the book), Walter Benjamin (or ‘the popular wise guy Walter Benjamin’). Each chapter has a cute digest at its head, announcing the delights on offer: ‘Alex-Li Tandem was Jewish – A rainbow over Mountjoy – Hand-print ...

Copyright

John Sutherland, 2 October 1980

Copyright: Intellectual Property in the Information Age 
by Edward Ploman and L. Clark Hamilton.
Routledge, 248 pp., £12.50, September 1980, 0 7100 0539 3
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... In his essay on Nikolai Leskov, Walter Benjamin observes, almost in passing, that the novel inevitably brings about the end or storytelling. Like many of Benjamin’s paradoxes, this insight is very unsettling to the received idea – oh dear no, the novel doesn’t tell a story after all ...

Platz Angst

David Trotter: Agoraphobia, 24 July 2003

Repressed Spaces: The Poetics of Agoraphobia 
by Paul Carter.
Reaktion, 253 pp., £16.95, November 2002, 1 86189 128 8
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... and the analyses of modern alienation undertaken by Georg Simmel, Siegfried Kracauer and Walter Benjamin. These analyses restore a certain proportion between stimulus and response. In them, agoraphobia disappears as a category. It is the environment that must be held responsible for causing panic, not individual perversity. The wonder now is not ...

Kafka’s Dog

P.N. Furbank, 13 November 1997

The Treasure Chest 
by Johann Peter Hebel, translated by John Hibberd.
Libris/Penguin, 175 pp., £19.95, May 1995, 0 14 044639 7
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... admirers. Chekhov and Gogol loved his stories, Tolstoy knew some of them by heart, and Walter Benjamin, Heidegger and Elias Canetti have paid ardent tribute to them. The praise is well deserved. This Treasure Chest strikes me as quite a treasure; and the new edition, with its chaste green jacket and endpapers, spacious layout and most ...

In Moscow

Tony Wood: In Moscow, 8 August 2002

... a striking uncertainty about Moscow urbanism, a looseness in its grip on the landscape, something Walter Benjamin, who was in Moscow from December 1926 to February 1927, observed with perceptive perplexity: In the streets of Moscow there is a curious state of affairs: the Russian village is playing hide-and-seek in them. If you step through one of the ...

To Be or Knot to Be

Adam Phillips, 10 October 2013

The Hamlet Doctrine 
by Simon Critchley and Jamieson Webster.
Verso, 269 pp., £14.99, September 2013, 978 1 78168 256 2
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... what they call ‘a series of outsider interpretations of Hamlet, notably those of Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, Hegel, Freud, Lacan and Nietzsche’. As outsiders go, at least in the academic world, these seem fairly mainstream figures. But they have been chosen because what each of their interpretations ‘enables is a bold but sometimes distant and ...

He speaks too loud

David Blackbourn: Brecht, 3 July 2014

Bertolt Brecht: A Literary Life 
by Stephen Parker.
Bloomsbury, 704 pp., £30, February 2014, 978 1 4081 5562 2
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... to disillusion and his anti-militarism caused a rift with his father and strait-laced brother Walter. He now immersed himself in British and American literature: Robert Louis Stevenson, Melville, above all Kipling. He became the leading figure in a bohemian gang who wrote and sang songs together, drank, chased girls and shocked respectable burghers. He ...

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