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Illuminations: Essays and Reflections Illuminations: Essays and Reflections by Walter Benjamin
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Illuminations Quotes Showing 1-30 of 48
“Writers are really people who write books not because they are poor, but because they are dissatisfied with the books which they could buy but do not like.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections
“How many cities have revealed themselves to me in the marches I undertook in the pursuit of books!”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections
“It is the task of the translator to release in his own language that pure language that is under the spell of another, to liberate the language imprisoned in a work in his re-creation of that work.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections
“You could tell a lot about a man by the books he keeps - his tastes, his interest, his habits.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections
“Every morning brings us news of the globe, and yet we are poor in noteworthy stories. This is because no event comes to us without being already shot through with explanation. In other words, by now almost nothing that happens benefits storytelling; almost everything benefits information. Actually, it is half the art of storytelling to keep a story free from explanation as one reproduces it. . . . The most extraordinary things, marvelous things, are related with the greatest accuracy, but the psychological connection of the event is not forced on the reader. It is left up to him to interpret things the way he understands them, and thus the narrative achieves an amplitude that information lacks.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections
“No poem is intended for the reader, no picture for the beholder, no symphony for the listener.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections
“Death is the sanction of everything the story-teller can tell. He has borrowed his authority from death.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections
“The important thing for the remembering author is not what he experienced, but the weaving of his memory, the Penelope work of recollection. Or should one call it, rather, the Penelope work of forgetting? ... And is not his work of spontaneous recollection, in which remembrance is the woof and forgetting the warp, a counterpart to Penelope's work rather than its likeness? For here the day unravels what the night has woven. When we awake each morning, we hold in our hands, usually weakly and loosely, but a few fringes of the tapestry of a lived life, as loomed for us by forgetting. However, with our purposeful activity and, even more, our purposive remembering each day unravels the web and the ornaments of forgetting.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections
“Any order is a balancing act of extreme precariousness.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections
“What has been forgotten.... is never something purely individual.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections
“This process of assimilation, which takes place in depth, requires a state of relaxation that is becoming rarer and rarer. If sleep is the apogee of physical relaxation, boredom is the apogee of mental relaxation. Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience. A rustling in the leaves drives him away. His nesting places - the activities that are intimately associated with boredom - are already extinct in the cities and are declining in the country as well. With this the gift for listening is lost and the community of listeners disappears. For storytelling is always the art of repeated stories, and this art is lost when the stories are no longer retained.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections
“A generation that had gone to school on a horse-drawn streetcar now stood under the open sky in a countryside in which nothing remained unchanged but the clouds, and beneath these clouds, in a field of force of destructive torrents and explosions, was the tiny, fragile human body.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections
“Languages are not strangers to on another.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections
“Fragments of a vessel which are to be glued together must match one another in the smallest details, although they need not be like one another. In the same way a translation, instead of resembling the meaning of the original, must lovingly and in detail incorporate the original's mode of signification, thus making both the original and the translation recognizable as fragments of a greater language, just as fragments are part of a vessel.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections
“We do not always proclaim loudly the most important thing we have to say. Nor do we always privately share it with those closest to us, our intimate friends, those who have been most devotedly ready to receive our confession.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections
“Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays And Reflections
“As Hegel put it, only when it is dark does the owl of Minerva begin its flight. Only in extinction is the collector comprehend.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections
“what draws the reader to the novel is the hope of warming his shivering life with a death he reads about”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections
“A man listening to a story is in the company of the storyteller; even a man reading one shares this companionship. The reader of a novel, however, is isolated, more so than any other reader(For even the reader of a poem is ready to utter the words, for the benefit of the listener.) In this solitude of his, the reader of
a novel seizes upon his material more jealously than anyone else. He is ready to make it completely his own, to devour it, as it were. Indeed, he destroys, he swallows up the material as the fire devours logs in the fireplace. The suspense which permeates the novel is
very much like the draft which stimulates the flame in the fireplace and enlivens its play.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections
“The camera introduces us to unconscious optics as does psychoanalysis to unconscious impulses.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays And Reflections
“Thus there is in the life of a collector a dialectical tensions between the poles of disorder and order.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections
“In connection with these reflections he coined the phrase mémoire involontaire. This concept bears the marks of the situation which gave rise to it; it is part of the inventory of the individual who is isolated in many ways. Where there is experience in the strict sense of the word, certain contents of the individual past combine with material of the collective past. The rituals with their ceremonies, their festivals (quite probably nowhere recalled in Proust’s work) kept producing the amalgamation of these two elements of memory over and over again. They triggered recollection at certain times and remained handles of memory for a lifetime. In this way, voluntary and involuntary recollection lose their mutual exclusiveness.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays And Reflections
“From this story it may be seen what the nature of true storytelling is. The value of information does not survive the moment in which it was new. It lives only at that moment; it has to surrender to it completely and explain itself to it without losing any time. A story is different. It does not expend itself. It preserves and concentrates its strength and is capable of releasing it even after a long time.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays And Reflections
“Our taverns and our metropolitan streets, our offices and furnished rooms, our railroad stations and our factories appeared to have us locked up hopelessly. Then came the film and burst this prison-world asunder by the dynamite of the tenth of a second, so that now, in the midst of its far-clung ruins and debris, we calmly and adventurously go traveling.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections
“The most profound enchantment for the collector is the locking of individual items within a magic circle in which they are fixed as the final thrill, the thrill of acquisition, passes over them.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections
“The value of information does not survive the moment in which it was new. It lives only at that moment; it has to surrender to it completely and explain itself to it without losing any time. A story is different. It does not expend itself. It preserves and concentrates its strength and is capable of releasing it even after a long time.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays And Reflections
“meaning is never found in relative independence, as in individual words or sentences; rather, it is in a constant state of flux –”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations
“The authenticity of a thing is the essence of all that is transmissible from its beginning, ranging from its substantive duration to its testimony to the history which it has experienced.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays And Reflections
“A historical materialist approaches a historical subject only where he encounters it as a monad. In this structure he recognizes the sign of a Messianic cessation of happening, or, put differently, a revolutionary chance in the fight for the oppressed past.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays And Reflections
“For inside him there are spirits, or at least little genii, which have seen to it that for a collector - and I mean a real collector, a collector as he ought to be - ownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have to objects. Not that they come alive in him; it is he who lives in them.”
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections

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