The Late Walter Benjamin (New Directions in Religion and Literature)
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A startling critical-creative examination of one of the 20th Century's leading thinkers, The Late Walter Benjamin is a documentary novel that juxtaposes the life and death of Walter Benjamin with the days, hours and minutes of a working-class council estate on the edge of London in post-war Austerity England. The novel centres on one particular tenant who claims to be Walter Benjamin, and only ever uses words written by Benjamin, apparently oblivious that the real Benjamin committed suicide 20 years earlier whilst fleeing the Nazis. Initially set in the sixties, the text slips back to the early years of the estate and to Benjamin's last days, as he moves across Europe seeking ever-more desperately to escape the Third Reich. Through this fictional narrative, John Schad explores not only the emergence of Benjamin's thinking from a politicised Jewish theology forced to confront the rise of Nazism but also the implications of his utopian Marxism, forged in exile, for the very different context of a displaced working class community in post-war Britain.
back on the carnival and strolled down to the harbour.’ ‘Harbour?’ said Porlock, still not looking up. He suspected that Mr Tal was busy watching quite the wrong film. The right film then crashed, without a word, as a mother stood at a gate, waving farewell to a daughter who was bound for the Carnival. The mother had applied a final line of lipstick, but now she too is gone. She is gone, the mother. The great projector had failed. Painter walloped the machine, his history machine. ‘Buggered,’ he
Joshua: to stab the world in the heart.’ This time he poked the air. ‘Joshua?’ said Porlock, without looking up, ‘I fear you shall find, Herr Tal, that you may not be Joshua.’ Mr Tal appeared to consider this. He then took out a piece of paper, a kind of certificate, and pointed at a name. ‘Benjamin Walter,’ it said. He pointed to say that was who he found he was. When Walter Benjamin died, as an unknown fugitive in the Spanish border town of Port Bou, there was, for some reason, a bureaucratic
girl in the house. She is left. It will, you see, have all revolved about her. She, they all say, is “The Agent of Energy.”’ Pause. ‘Had she touched me,’ said Mr Tal, ‘with the match of her eyes, I should have gone up like a magazine.’ Pause. I gave up my post at the window, gave it up for dead, for it was time, time, I knew, time at last, to switch on the television set. As I waited for the picture to come, Johanna appeared, sweeping gravity from her eyes. She said that her boyfriend, Romeo, was
Pause, there was a pause, I swear there was a pause, and then the rentman announced that he, the rentman, should be running along as the tea would stand in need of pouring. For a moment, I thought Mr Tal was about to tear each of his 600 quotations into 10,000 pieces, but then I saw that he did not despair. Because he did not comprehend. ‘Think, Arse, think,’ urged Painter, ‘– like six-million Derek Hendersons, it is. Understand?’ ‘An old man many times singed,’ suggested Mr Tal. 75 the late
Porlock, without turning, ‘the woods, they’re encroaching. It’s the trees or us. One of us must go.’ Margot Jeffreys ‘Londoners in Hertfordshire’ By the end of 1958, altogether 1,831 tenants had left the estate; that is some 30 per cent of all the tenants who had initially been housed there. The rentman, who leaned against the wall, shook his head and beckoned me to him. He then tapped at his nose as if at a door, and whispered, ‘Rent Arrears: rent for the house, rent for the wireless, rent for