Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship (New York Review Books Classics)

Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship (New York Review Books Classics)

Gershom Gerhard Scholem

Language: English

Pages: 328

ISBN: 1590170326

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Gershom Scholem is celebrated as the twentieth century's most profound student of the Jewish mystical tradition; Walter Benjamin, as a master thinker whose extraordinary essays mix the revolutionary, the revelatory, and the esoteric. Scholem was a precocious teenager when he met Benjamin, who became his close friend and intellectual mentor. His account of that relationship—which was to remain crucial for both men—is both a celebration of his friend's spellbinding genius and a lament for the personal and intellectual self-destructiveness that culminated in Benjamin's suicide in 1940.


At once prickly and heartbroken, argumentative and loving, Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship is an absorbing memoir with the complication of character and motive of a novel. As Scholem revisits the passionate engagements over Marxism and Kabbala, Europe and Palestine that he shared with Benjamin, it is as if he sought to summon up his lost friend's spirit again, to have the last word in the argument that might have saved his life.

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and his unfortunate situation in connection with his position toward the Institute. Hannah Arendt had a profound aversion to the circle around the Institute, particularly Horkheimer and Adorno (the feeling was mutual). She indulged in gloomy speculations about the Institute’s conduct toward Benjamin, which far exceeded my own reservations and which she did not conceal from Benjamin. After my return to Jerusalem, Benjamin impatiently expected not only a lengthy report about America and the

harm, and he will defend himself—clever as he is—by saying that you are only a child. But that isn’t true. Weren’t you in heaven twenty-five years longer than he was? Didn’t you study the Torah there twenty-five years longer than he did? (Actually, Stefan, I don’t mind telling you that he already has forgotten everything again.) But what are you going to do? Even in heaven the Torah complained that he loved your mother Dora more than he loved it. But with any luck we’ll be able to bring him

metaphysically legitimate insights can arise from this way of evaluating books on the basis of their bindings and paper. Walter has a lot of illegitimate insights as well. There’s no way to change him. On the contrary; the only thing I have to guard against is the incursion of this sphere into my own through personal contact.” Shortly before that I had made this note: “Of late I have been getting along with Walter very well again—probably because I now have found the locus from which I can

dry elliptical statement and later received some information from a few of his lady friends. At times of great emotional stress or when working very hard he sometimes did not write for months; at other times his letters would come thick and fast, as for instance during the half-year he spent in Italy in 1924 following the rehabilitation of the German currency. He had dreamed about such a trip—which was to bring him relief from the increasingly unbearable burden of conditions in Germany—the entire

place it at your feet in Jerusalem. A special showpiece is a very snide review in the Berliner Tageblatt, by a trueborn Berliner in whom [Alfred] Kerr can take pleasure.” I picked up a copy of the review (dated November 11) with which Werner Milch—a trueborn Breslauer, not a trueborn Berliner—won his polemical spurs against Benjamin. Milch, a young specialist in baroque literature and a fellow Jew, took as a target both books by Benjamin, a “clever fragmentist” whose “many-sided talent proves his

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