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Early Writings (1910–1917)

Early Writings (1910–1917)

Walter Benjamin

Edited and translated by Howard Eiland

ISBN 9780674049932

Publication date: 05/09/2011

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Walter Benjamin became a published writer at the age of seventeen. Yet the first stirrings of this most original of critical minds—penned during the years in which he transformed himself from the comfortable son of a haute-bourgeois German Jewish family into the nomadic, uncompromising philosopher-critic we have since come to appreciate—have until now remained largely unavailable in English. Early Writings, 1910-1917 rectifies this situation, documenting the formative intellectual experiences of one of the twentieth century's most resolutely independent thinkers.

Here we see the young Benjamin in his various roles as moralist, cultural critic, school reformer, and poet-philosopher. The diversity of interest and profundity of thought characteristic of his better-known work from the 1920s and 30s are already in evidence, as we witness the emergence of critical projects that would occupy Benjamin throughout his intellectual career: the role of the present in historical remembrance, the relationship of the intellectual to political action, the idea of truth in works of art, and the investigation of language as the veiled medium of experience.

Even at this early stage, a recognizably Benjaminian way of thinking comes into view—a daring, boundary-crossing enterprise that does away with classical antitheses in favor of the relentlessly-seeking critical consciousness that produced the groundbreaking works of his later years. With the publication of these early writings, our portrait of one of the most significant intellects of the twentieth century edges closer to completion.

Praise

  • This thoughtfully planned edition of Benjamin's early writings will afford readers who may only be familiar with his later canonical work a sense of the range and force of the initial phases of Benjamin's intellectual formation. Those who thought they knew Benjamin will warmly welcome these magical and charming essays, poems, stories, fragments, and dialogues from Benjamin's metaphysics of youth.

    —Gerhard Richter, University of California, Davis

Authors

  • Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) was the author of many works of literary and cultural analysis.
  • Howard Eiland is an editor and translator of Benjamin’s writings.

Book Details

  • 320 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press

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