I really really should do a lengthy post on my favorite author, whose writings I mostly do not really understand, but whose books are such a consoling presence in my library (2), and to whom I always return: Walter Benjamin .
Or perhaps I can suffice with a second hand post about an article by Adam Kirsch on Benjamin. I think Kirsch got quite close to why Benjamin’s obscure & hermetic writings are so devoutly loved. They’re loved, because Benjamin’s “vision of language […] expresses so eloquently his longing for meaning” .
“the allure of his thought lies in his imagination of a perfected world, in which objects would be redeemed from their imprisoning silence”.
And don’t we all (well those of us that aren’t astrophysics scientists, or theologians, or even mere non-nonsense civil engineers), so don’t we all long to find meaning in a chaotic reality – and finding meaning through the scarce modes of understanding we have at our disposal: words, images, … . Grasping reality poetically …
And so Kirsch concludes (one of the many sentences in his article I feverishly underlined):
“Ultimately, his strange, beautiful works are best read as fragments (3) of a great poem – the poem of a longing that no world, and Benjamin’s least of all (4) , could possibly satisfy”.
Oh and I should also do a ponderous post on “marginality” and “exile” and what Edward Said (1935-2003 Palestinian intellectual ) and Hannah Arendt (1906-1975 Jewish intellectual) had to say about that.
And then I should definitely do a post to fend off any accusations of name-dropping : I don’t drop names, I recite them , reverently & lovingly. Somehow those names serve like talismans – “reminding me of what I value”, evoking a world of wisdom & wit & beauty where I alas cannot often dwell.
Yes, many posts call out to be written, and yet what’s foremost on my mind now: an image of a still, moon-lit garage-court.
Tonight, getting up and looking out of the window, I was startled by the intense moonlight. So clean, so pervasive a light, projecting sharply delineated shadows. And that garage-court so empty and so very still and aloof. . . so completely self-sufficient, not needing any spectators. (5)
(1) You’ll need some patience, but just read on, and in the closing paragraph you’ll be duly rewarded with moonlight
(2) Please allow me to call this collection of ramshackle book-cases of mine “my library”, if only to indulge in visions of noble hushed bourgeois interiors
(3) Ha! Indeed, fragments …. Maybe this phrase is also a source to quote for my blog-title
(4) We all know Benjamin never found an intellectual home, lived in poverty in Paris, has never finished his magnum opus, had to flee the Nazis and, when failing to cross the French-Spanish border, committed suicide “in despair and exhaustion”
(5) I’m cheating, this is not a pic from last night’s moonlit vision – it’s a melting snow man in that same court-yard, two years ago – but the self-sufficient stillness is the same