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Benjamin Walter, English, Philosophy

Walter Benjamin : “The power of a text” from One-Way Street

Calligraphy

“The power of a country road when one is walking along it is different from the power it has when one is flying over it by airplane.

In the same way, the power of a text when it is read is different from the power it has when it is copied out. The airplane passenger sees only how the road pushes through the landscape, how it unfolds according to the same laws as the terrain surrounding it. Only he who walks the road on foot learns the power it commands, and of how, from the very scenery that for the flier is only the unfurled plain, it calls forth distances, belvederes, clearings, prospects at each of its turns like a commander deploying soldiers at a front.

 

Only the copied text thus commands the soul of him who is occupied with it, whereas the mere reader never discovers the new aspects of his inner self that are opened by the text, that road cut through the interior jungle forever closing behind it: because the reader follows the movement of his mind in the free flight of daydreaming, whereas the copier submits it to command. The Chinese practice of copying books was thus an incomparable guarantee of literary culture, and the transcript a key to China’s enigmas.”

Walter Benjamin

noon book verb write

Noon: Book / Verb: write

The text of Walter Benjamin’s, Chinese Curios from his essay One Way Street. Benjamin’s text proposes a metaphor: if reading is accomplished by virtue of a distance, as if from the height and insularity of an airplane, what would it mean—what would it look like—if a text was read from the ground? We tested the gravity of this provocation and considered its implications for the notion of legibility. Clarity and chaos materialize in these experimente. source: jackhenriefisher.com

Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin (15 July 1892 – 26 September 1940) was a German literary critic, philosopher, social critic, translator, radio broadcaster and essayist. Combining elements of German idealism or Romanticism, historical materialism and Jewish mysticism, Benjamin made enduring and influential contributions to aesthetic theory and Western Marxism. He is associated with the Frankfurt School.

 

Le livre de souvenirs que le grand historien du judaïsme, Gershom Scholem, a consacré à son ami Walter Benjamin est un document de première importance pour l’histoire intellectuelle de ce siècle. De 1915, date de leur première rencontre à Berlin, à 1940, année du suicide de Benjamin à la frontière pyrénéenne, ils ont entretenu un étroit commerce intellectuel, fondé sur une amitié profonde. Pourtant, leurs choix de vie devaient très vite diverger : influencé par le sionisme, dès 1923, Scholem quitte Berlin pour Jérusalem, où il deviendra l’un des plus célèbres érudits hébraïsants et étudiera les grands courants de la mystique juive. Benjamin, lui, voyage sans cesse, avant d’être contraint, après 1933, à l’exil en France. Il tente de concilier l’espérance marxiste et l’influence plus souterraine du messianisme juif, et disperse ses écrits en multiples fragments. Ce livre nous restitue la vivacité des débats et conversations qui animent les deux hommes, et évoque plus d’une fois tel ou tel autre de leurs relations communes : Judah Magnes, Bertold Brecht, Martin Buber, Ernst Bloch, Hannah Arendt, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer. Au moment où les œuvres de Benjamin et de Scholem suscitent un intérêt croissant, cet ouvrage est une contribution essentielle à leur compréhension.

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