Cover: Early Writings (1910–1917), from Harvard University PressCover: Early Writings (1910–1917) in HARDCOVER

Early Writings (1910–1917)

Walter Benjamin

Edited and translated by Howard Eiland

Product Details


$41.00 • £35.95 • €37.95

ISBN 9780674049932

Publication Date: 05/09/2011


320 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

Belknap Press


Add to Cart

Educators: Request an Exam Copy (Learn more)

Media Requests:

Related Subjects

Early Writings (1910–1917) [is] the latest volume to appear in Harvard University Press’ Benjamin edition—an exemplary scholarly project that has now been ongoing for 25 years…In these seven years, from the ages of 18 to 25, it’s possible to see Benjamin develop from a precocious, pompous adolescent into a daring and profound thinker. The latest pieces in the book—in particular ‘The Life of Students,’ ‘Trauerspiel and Tragedy,’ and ‘On Language as Such and the Language of Man’—lead directly to his most important insights into the nature of literature and history. In fact, the last of these, never published in Benjamin’s lifetime, can be seen as a kind of skeleton key to his mature work, full of overtly mystical beliefs that would go underground when Benjamin became a professed Communist…One of the things that makes Benjamin so fascinating is the way he seems to translate Jewish ways of thinking into a post-Jewish intellectual culture. Early Writings shows that this fertile dualism was present from the very beginning.—Adam Kirsch, Tablet Magazine

This is a valuable addition to the available work in English of one of the seminal Jewish critical thinkers of the 20th century, author of the massive Arcades Project. The mostly lambent translations by editor Eiland and others…help place Benjamin’s later work within the context of his early preoccupations.Publishers Weekly

In Early Writings, Howard Eiland covers the earliest period of Benjamin’s extant oeuvre that helped form the critical project that dominated his literary and philosophical career. This volume’s range provides a comprehensive account of Benjamin’s development from an ardent advocate of youth and educational reform to a philosophically committed critic of literature.—David Ferris, University of Colorado at Boulder

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

In the introduction, editor and translator Eiland does a wonderful job of explaining how the essays relate to events in Benjamin’s early adult life and to the evolution of his theories…These pieces offer the reader valuable insight into Benjamin’s philosophical thought.—Scott Duimstra, Library Journal

This well-planned, beautifully translated volume collects Benjamin’s earliest writings and is a welcome addition to the corpus of his contributions to the fields of philosophy, aesthetics, politics, and literary criticism. From his first attempts as an author in 1910 when he was a student in Munich, Benjamin refined his voice as one of Europe’s most independent, fiercely metaphysical writers. Here Eiland et al. allow the reader to witness the emergence of the themes that would occupy Benjamin in the productive decades to follow: language and truth, historical memory, the relation of experience to the active life. The 45 original, direct pieces collected here constitute a crucial context for his developing thought. This collection stands alongside Benjamin’s Selected Writings, ed. by Marcus Bullock and Michael Jennings as more evidence of Benjamin’s stature as a thinker of world-historical force. Those interested in philosophy, letters, German literature, and intellectual history will undoubtedly find this volume immensely fruitful.—M. Uebel, Choice

Recent News

Black lives matter. Black voices matter. A statement from HUP »

From Our Blog

Composite photograph showing (top) entrance to the Prudential Center in Boston and (bottom) an internal construction partition/wall printed with the words 'Opening Day 2023' and other decorative text

A New Chapter for Harvard Book Store

Starting in the summer of 2023, for the first time in almost thirty years, Harvard Book Store will have two locations: the flagship store in Harvard Square, and a large new store in the Prudential Center in Boston. For University Press Week we wanted to show some bookseller love, so we reached out to Rachel Cass, General Manager of the Harvard Book Store, to see what’s planned for their exciting new location