Begun in Poveromo, Italy, in 1932, and extensively revised in 1938, "Berlin Childhood around 1900" remained unpublished during Walter Benjamin's lifetime, one of his 'large-scale defeats'. Now translated into English for the first time in book form, on the basis of the recently discovered 'final version' that contains the author's own arrangement of a suite of luminous vignettes, it can be more widely appreciated as one of the masterpieces of 20th Century prose writing.
Not an autobiography in the customary sense, Benjamin's recollection of his childhood in an upper-middle-class Jewish home in Berlin's West End at the turn of the century becomes an occasion for unified 'expeditions into the depths of memory'. In this diagram of his life, Benjamin focuses not on persons or events but on places and things, all seen from the perspective of a child - a collector, flaneur, and allegorist in one.
This book is also one of Benjamin's great city texts, bringing to life the cocoon of his childhood - the parks, streets, schoolrooms, and interiors of an emerging metropolis. It reads the city as palimpsest and labyrinth, revealing unexpected lyricism in the heart of the familiar. As an added gem, a preface by Howard Eiland discusses the genesis and structure of the work, which marks the culmination of Benjamin's attempt to do philosophy concretely.
'The Proustian ideal of the redemption of ’lived experience’ lies at the heart of Benjamin’s idiosyncratic memoir, Berlin Childhood around 1900...In Berlin Childhood he offers us a cityscape of the German capital as seen through the eyes of a precocious and impressionable youth. He revisits his favorite childhood haunts--the zoos, swimming pools, grammar schools, parks and railway terminals--and milks them for utopian potential... In a sense, Benjamin regarded childhood much as he did modern literature: as an invaluable repository of utopian longings and dreams in an age of industrialized degradation. Berlin Childhood represents his own Proustian effort to recapture lost time, a time that any revolution worthy of the name would seek to restore.' Richard Wolin, The Nation
|Details||Paperback: 208 pages Publisher: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (May 30, 2006) Language: English ISBN-10: 9780674022225 ISBN-13: 9780674022225 Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches|