Cover: Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 2: Part 2: 1931–1934, from Harvard University PressCover: Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 2: Part 2 in PAPERBACK

Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 2: Part 2


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Product Details


$32.00 • £25.95 • €29.00

ISBN 9780674017467

Publication Date: 06/15/2005

Academic Trade

480 pages

6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches

8 halftones

Belknap Press

Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings > Volume 2:


This awesome 800-page collection demonstrates that Benjamin was able to pack more thought into the years 1931–34 than most people manage in a lifetime… Altogether indispensable.—Steven Poole, The Guardian

After the lede comes the body of the essay, where the meat is served up. When a critic as astute as German man of letters Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) writes about a subject as rich as his fellow journalist Karl Kraus (1874–1936), the cut can be rich, marbled and juicy… Topics in other pieces gathered here range from highbrow analysis (‘Criticism as the Fundamental Discipline of Literary History’) to pop-culture commentary (‘Reflections on Radio,’ ‘Mickey Mouse’).—Dennis Drabelle, The Washington Post Book World

[The following excerpts refer to the one-volume hardcover edition of Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 2.]

Volume 2 of the Harvard edition, a welcome project that I cannot praise enough, is filled with astonishingly ‘annihilating trivia,’ as astonishing, I dare say, as Benjamin’s half-dozen fully realized monographs. Thanks to it, his luminosity, on the eve of the 60th anniversary of his premature death, is happily in focus.—Ilan Stavans, The Forward

No matter how seemingly idiosyncratic the topic, Benjamin drills deep until, almost invariably, he excavates prose that sparkles with a high specific density: hard aphoristically gem-like, and often brilliant… Benjamin’s Selected Writings, Volume 2, should, I think, bowl over and beguile any who, caring about the life of the mind, have not yet succumbed to the bearish charms of this gloomy observer of his besotted times. Wherever he turned his incisive gaze the clarity of morning’s first light shines forth.—Haim Chertok, The Jerusalem Post

This second volume of [Walter Benjamin’s] selected writings covers all aspects of the time, with the great figures of European thought in the background. Surrealism, Russian films, Chaplin, Keller, Kafka, Gide, Proust, hashish, children’s toys and literature, Hoffmansthal, travel, Goethe, Berlin life, radio talks, Stefan George—it is all here and all living… This volume cannot be praised too highly.—Gene Shaw, Library Journal

Benjamin’s writings deserve a spot in every library. This volume especially speaks of extraordinary resilience, given the diminishing prospects of an author forced to sell parts of his library to survive.—Andrew C. Wisely, LUCE

For those who know only the small selection of essays and longer texts previously translated into English, this book may be a revelation. Selected Writings, Volume 2, spanning the period from his abandonment of academia and his emergence as an important literary journalist in 1927 to his near silencing after the Nazis seized power and his exile in 1934, shows [Walter Benjamin] at his sparkling best… All his published work of this time is included here, from a few longer essays on themes as varied as the history of photography and Kafka to three-page pieces on recent French fiction, art history, ‘the crisis of the novel,’ food and the effects of hashish. The new book also includes a generous selection of Benjamin’s notes, diary entries and drafts. Interesting in themselves, and indispensable to anyone seeking insight into Benjamin’s thinking, they also offer a view of the writer at work, developing different aspects of a thought or recycling successful paragraphs from one assignment to another.—Paul Mattick, The New York Times Book Review

The period from 1927 to 1934 spanned in this volume was for Walter Benjamin both grievous and fertile… The range of topics and perspectives is immense. It extends from considerations on kitsch and pornography to repeated encounters, personal or indirect, with Gide, Kierkegaard and surrealism. The cultural history of toys fascinates Benjamin as he records his own Berlin childhood. Insights into ’Left-Wing Melancholy’ alternate with thoughts on Mickey Mouse, on Chaplin, and on graphology, which Benjamin practised to eke out his earnings.—George Steiner, The Observer

Whatever your expectations, here is a book that will meet them, surpass them, frustrate them, and probably transform their very nature altogether… This is a book to be mined, which offers the English-reading scholar a rich resource of mineral wealth. It contains previously translated precious gems such as the ‘Surrealism’ essay which illuminates Benjamin’s own ‘poetic politics’… There are also wide, rich seams of sound and solid philosophical and critical coal that will keep the post-Kantian boilers stoked for the foreseeable future.—Ewan Porter, Philosophy in Review

While the Harvard series [of Walter Benjamin’s writings includes] Benjamin’s epochal contributions to Marxist theory and literary criticism, they also do English-language readers a great service by emphasizing his more accessible writings: fanciful personal essays, journalistic articles and book reviews. These pieces are, at times, giddily delightful; at other moments, they offer lightening-quick, piercing insights. Particularly surprising are the writings on food, such as an account of buying a bunch of figs from an open-air market and consuming them all in a frenzy. Benjamin concludes that one only understands the essence of a given food when one continues to eat it past the point of disgust.Publishers Weekly

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