Apropos of sleep, that sinister adventure of all our nights, we may say that men go to bed daily with an audacity that would be incomprehensible if we did not know that it is the result of ignorance of the danger.
Charles Baudelaire, who was admired by Benjamin. His poems and quotations occupy many pages of the the Arcades Project manuscript.
Only the Messiah himself consummates all history, in the sense that he alone redeems, completes, creates its relation to the Messianic. For this reason nothing historical can relate itself on its own account to anything Messianic. Therefore the Kingdom of God is not the telos of the historical dynamic: it cannot be set as a goal. From the standpoint of history it is not the goal but the end. Therefore the order of the profane cannot be built up on the idea of the Divine Kingdom, and therefore theocracy has no political, but only a religious meaning. To have repudiated with utmost vehemence the political significance of theocracy is the cardinal merit of Blochs Spirit of Utopia.
From “The Theologico-Political Fragment”, from Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms and Autobiographical Writings
history is the subject of a structure whose site is not homogenous, empty time, but time filled by the presence of the now. thus, to robespierre ancient rome was a past charged with the time of the now which he blasted out of the continuum of history. the french revolution viewed itself as rome incarnate. It evoked ancient rome the way fashion evokes costumes of the past. fashion has a flair for the topical, no matter where it stirs in the thickets of long ago; it is a tiger’s leap into what has gone before.
On a horizontal beam supporting the roof of Brecht’s study, there is a painted inscription: “The truth is concrete.” On a window ledge stands a little wooden donkey that can nod its head. Brecht has hung a little notice around its neck with the words: “I, too, must understand it
Walter Benjamin, “Notes from Svendbord,” in Selected Writings Volume Two (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999), p 785).
The nature of this melancholy becomes clearer, once one asks the question, with whom does the historical writer of historicism actually empathize. The answer is irrefutably with the victor. Those who currently rule are however the heirs of all those who have ever been victorious. Empathy with the victors thus comes to benefit the current rulers every time.
Walter Benjamin was one of the most prolific thinkers and cultural critics of his time. Formerly an exciting rumor due to his scarce publications, Benjamin's post-humous fame began with the publication of Illuminations in 1969. A prosaic and mystical man, Benjamin thought of himself as a literary critic and a German trying desperately to live in 19th Century Paris. It was ultimately the rise of Fascism, the revolution he most feared that caused his untimely suicide while fleeing from the gestapo in 1940 on the Spanish/French Border.
This blog is devoted to the memory of Walter Benjamin, which, you will find, in Benjamin's terms, is far more complicated than you should like to expect.