1982-1940, German Critic, Philosopher
All religions have honored the beggar. For he proves that in a matter at the same time as prosaic and holy, banal and regenerative as the giving of alms, intellect and morality, consistency and principles are miserably inadequate.
Walter Benjamin – [Beggars]
Any translation which intends to perform a transmitting function cannot transmit anything but information — hence, something inessential. This is the hallmark of bad translations.
Walter Benjamin – [Translation]
Books and harlots have their quarrels in public.
Walter Benjamin – [Debate]
Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience. A rustling in the leaves drives him away.
Walter Benjamin – [Bores and Boredom]
Counsel woven into the fabric of real life is wisdom.
Walter Benjamin – [Advice]
Death is the sanction of everything the story-teller can tell. He has borrowed his authority from death.
Walter Benjamin – [Story and Story-Telling]
Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector's passion borders on the chaos of memories.
Walter Benjamin – [Things and Little Things]
Experience has taught me that the shallowest of communist platitudes contains more of a hierarchy of meaning than contemporary bourgeois profundity.
Walter Benjamin – [Communism and Socialism]
Genuine polemics approach a book as lovingly as a cannibal spices a baby.
Walter Benjamin – [Literary Criticism]
Gifts must affect the receiver to the point of shock.
Walter Benjamin – [Giving]
He who asks fortune-tellers the future unwittingly forfeits an inner intimation of coming events that is a thousand times more exact than anything they may say. He is impelled by inertia, rather than curiosity, and nothing is more unlike the submissive apathy with which he hears his fate revealed than the alert dexterity with which the man of courage lays hands on the future.
Walter Benjamin – [Prediction]
He who observes etiquette but objects to lying is like someone who dresses fashionably but wears no vest.
Walter Benjamin – [Etiquette]
He who seeks to approach his own buried past must conduct himself like a man digging. He must not be afraid to return again and again to the same matter; to scatter it as one scatters earth, to turn it over as one turns over soil. For the matter itself is only a deposit, a stratum, which yields only to the most meticulous examination what constitutes the real treasure hidden within the earth: the images, severed from all earlier associations, that stand –like precious fragments or torsos in a collector's gallery –in the prosaic rooms of our later understanding.
Walter Benjamin – [Self-knowledge]
It is precisely the purpose of the public opinion generated by the press to make the public incapable of judging, to insinuate into it the attitude of someone irresponsible, uninformed.
Walter Benjamin – [Media]
Like ultraviolet rays memory shows to each man in the book of life a script that invisibly and prophetically glosses the text.
Walter Benjamin – [Memory]
Living substance conquers the frenzy of destruction only in the ecstasy of procreation.
Walter Benjamin – [Procreation]
Memory is not an instrument for exploring the past but its theatre. It is the medium of past experience, as the ground is the medium in which dead cities lie interred.
Walter Benjamin – [Memory]
Not to find one's way in a city may well be uninteresting and banal. It requires ignorance — nothing more. But to lose oneself in a city — as one loses oneself in a forest — that calls for a quite different schooling. Then, signboard and street names, passers-by, roofs, kiosks, or bars must speak to the wanderer like a cracking twig under his feet in the forest.
Walter Benjamin – [Cities and City Life]
Nothing is poorer than a truth expressed as it was thought. Committed to writing in such cases, it is not even a bad photograph. Truth wants to be startled abruptly, at one stroke, from her self-immersion, whether by uproar, music or cries for help.
Walter Benjamin – [Truth]
Of all the ways of acquiring books, writing them oneself is regarded as the most praiseworthy method. Writers are really people who write books not because they are poor, but because they are dissatisfied with the books which they could buy but do not like.
Walter Benjamin – [Books and Reading]