the most peculiar marxist ever

a review of Eli Friedlander’s Walter Benjamin: A Philosophical Portrait

Benjamin is often read as a literary figure rather than a philosopher. Texts like “Theses on the Philosophy of History” show him at his most aphoristic; the latter features a famous fragment describing “the angel of history” who is “propelled into the future” by “a storm blowing from paradise.” As many of Benjamin’s texts are assembled from disparate scraps and notes, some recent scholarly studies have mistaken this aspect of his style as fully reflective of his thought. As one critic remarked, Benjamin is often typecast as “a naturally unsystematic man, a hero of fragmentation.”

read the review online at Bookforum

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