Monday, January 28, 2008

Walter Benjamin Reviews

More linking for now... two reviews of English translation of Walter Benjamin's scraps, notebooks and other miscellany in Guardian and Financial Times.

And to brighten up the evening, an excerpt from his essay "The Storyteller." (PDF) I like the first two paragraphs too in which he talks about how the art of storytelling has declined in the modern age in commensurate with a parallel decline in the ability to exchange experiences. I need to find Nikolai Leskov's Lady Macbeth of Mtensk District too...

"It has been observed for a number of centuries how in the general consciousness the thought of death has declined in omnipresence and vividness. In its last stages this process is accelerated. And in the course of the nineteenth century bourgeois society has, by means of hygienic and social, private and public institutions, realized a secondary effect which may have been its subconscious main purpose: to make it possible for people to avoid the sight of the dying. Dying was once a public process in the life of the individual and a most exemplary one. In the course of modern times dying has been pushed further and further out of the perceptual world of the living. There used to be no house, hardly a room, in which someone had not died. Today people live in rooms that have never been touched by death, dry dwellers of eternity, and when their end approaches they are stowed away in sanatoria or hospitals by their heirs. It is, however, characteristic that not only a man's knowledge or wisdom, but above all his real life - and this is the stuff that stories are made of - first assumes transmissible form at the moment of his death. Just as a sequence of images is set in motion inside a man as his life comes to an end - unfolding the views of himself under which he has encountered without being aware of it - suddenly in his expressions and looks the unforgettable emerges and imparts to everything that concerned him that authority which even the poorest wretch in dying possesses for the living around him. The authority is at the very source of the story."


Mark Thwaite said...

Hi Alok,

Happily, Leskov's Lady Macbeth is available (in a nice edition from Hesperus Press):


Alok said...

thanks for the link mark. will be on a lookout for it... or else order it sometime soon.