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Berlin Childhood around 1900 Paperback – March 20, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
"Perhaps the mingling of the forgotten with the dust of our vanished dwellings is the secret of its survival," writes Benjamin in his beautiful book about the small things he remembers from his childhood in Berlin. Writing in Italy in 1932, Benjamin felt he might never again see the city of his childhood. Through descriptions of furniture, rooms, buildings, parks, objects and the slight interactions between boy and world, Benjamin explores the dichotomies of longing, remembering and forgetting. During his lifetime, Benjamin published several versions of the book, two of which (the 1932-34 and final versions) are included. Faithfulness to earlier editions leaves the book without a narrative arc, but doesn't detract from the artful mastery of the prose, which is preserved in the translation: "In addition to the upper region of the box, where these spindles nestled side by side, where the black needlebook glimmered and the scissors lay sheathed in their leather pockets, there was the dark underground, the chaos, in which the loosened ball of thread reigned supreme, and in which pieces of elastic bands, hooks, eyes, and scraps of silk were jumbled together." An introduction written by Peter Szondi in 1961 sets up a comparison with Proust's masterwork, and it is indeed easy to see traces of the influence in tone, stylistic mannerisms and theme. Like Remembrance of Things Past, this is a work that deserves to be rediscovered by every generation. 7 halftones.
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Written in the early 1930s, this book did not appear in its entirety until 1950, 10 years after the author's death. At least four versions of the text were written, as Benjamin failed in his attempt to publish it as a book in Germany and Switzerland. Many of the individual pieces, however, appeared in newspapers, 26 pieces from December 1932 through September 1935, usually under a pseudonym. Occupying less than 70 pages in the two-volume edition of Benjamin's Schrifen, it is a series of miniature portraits conjuring up people, objects, streets, and interior scenes that reveal his childhood in a wealthy, assimilated Jewish family in Berlin's West End at the turn of the century. In the letter to Gershom Scholem in 1932, Benjamin notes "these childhood memories are not narratives in the form of a chronicle, but individual expeditions into the depths of memory." Benjamin is a writer who deserves our full attention. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Written from exile and dreaming of home, with its painful moments, and curious delights.
Beautifully written and translated.