Happy birthday, Walter Benjamin! Here are some quotes from the philosopher, cultural critic, and essayist.
“There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.”
“Death is the sanction of everything that the storyteller can tell.”
“Things are only mannequins and even the great world-historical events are only costumes beneath which they exchange glances with nothingness.”
“Scholarship, far from leading inexorably to a profession, may in fact preclude it. For it does not permit you to abandon it.”
“In the appreciation of a work of art or an art form, consideration of the receiver never proves fruitful. Not only is any reference to a particular public or its representatives misleading, but even the concept of an ‘ideal’ receiver is detrimental in the theoretical consideration of art, since all it posits is the existence and nature of man as such. Art, in the same way, posits man’s physical and spiritual existence, but in none of its works is it concerned with his attentiveness. No poem is intended for the reader, no picture for the beholder, no symphony for the audience.”
“The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule.”
“To articulate what is past does not mean to recognize ‘how it really was.’ It means to take control of a memory, as it flashes in a moment of danger.”
“A religion may be discerned in capitalism—that is to say, capitalism serves essentially to allay the same anxieties, torments, and disturbances to which the so-called religions offered answers.”
“History breaks down into images not into stories.”
“In the fields with which we are concerned knowledge exists only in lightning flashes. The text is the thunder rolling long afterwards.”
John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.