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Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship
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 ...more
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(Angelus Novus, 1920 Paul Klee)
A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the ...more
A solid enough look at Benjamin's life, obviously slanted by Scholem's wish to write a slightly different kind of hagiography than Benjamin's other hagiographers. Despite the fact that Scholem only saw Benjamin once in the very productive, final seven years of his life, he would have us believe that Walter never stopped being a theologian, and that Benjamin's Marxist language was just an attempt to make his thought palatable to other Marxist intellectuals. This isn't convincing as a statement of ...more
Just as the title says - the story of a friendship between two brilliant intellectuals. I had to constantly remind myself that I wasn't reading the critical opinions of Benjamin and at many times I wished I was instead. But this is no fault of Scholem - it is a shortcoming of my own. I mention this because I imagine most people interested in this book are familiar with Benjamin's writings, 'Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction' at the least, and are seeking more of the stunning insight of w ...more
Enjoyed this book even within my difficulty in understanding and my lack of experience and knowledge regarding Judaism and the European experience between the world wars and the journey up to the beginning of another war to end all wars. Gershom Scholem was an engaging writer who did have an understanding few others may have regarding the historical events happening in his, and Benjamin's, lifetime. I believe after reading this book that Gershom was fair in his assessments and the relationship h ...more
I so wanted to like this. I so wanted to hear about the intellectual debates and adventures of life in Weimar-era Berlin, about Walter Benjamin and his habits. What I got was Gershom Scholem trying to shoehorn Benjamin's thought into this mystical framework. The mysticism, together with the almost fanatical Zionism of Scholem's perspective (almost as if he was blaming Benjamin's death on his desire to remain in Europe... although that could be me overreaching as a reader), together with Scholem' ...more
This is a friendship of very profound readers and thinkers where Scholem proves that Benjamin did have a great love for Jewish mysticism, even if it doesn't show up in his writings, and how these friends clash yet remain fast friends and correspond with each other through letters - a very touching yet keeneyed portrait of a melancholic Walter Benjamin. Will help you to read Benjamin in more depth.
Jul 06, 2008 Damian rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: good people with a little heart sould and intelligence.
Recommended to Damian by: me.
I finished this while stuck in Houston's George Bush International Airport. I learned a lot about Scholem's involvement with Zionism, 20 years before Israel was founded, as well as a lot about Walter Benjamin. I have to wonder if Scholem is a bit too revisionist of Walter's life.
Apr 11, 2007 Jason rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in 20th century intellectual history, and friendship in general
This is a very poignant memoir of Gershom Scholem's friendship with Walter Benjamin. Scholem narrates the troubled life of his friend with deep tenderness.
|NYRB Classics: Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship, by Gershom Scholem||1||5||Oct 30, 2013 09:55PM|
Gerhard Scholem who, after his immigration from Germany to Israel, changed his name to Gershom Scholem (Hebrew: גרשם שלום) (December 5, 1897 – February 21, 1982), was a German-born Israeli philosopher and historian. He is widely regarded as the founder of the modern, academic study of Kabbalah, becoming the first Professor of Jewish Mysticism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His close fri ...moreMore about Gershom Scholem...