This book features a CD of rarely performed music, including a specially commissioned rap by Erik Weiner of Walter Benjamin's "Thesis on the Philosophy of History." Theodor W. Adorno was the prototypical German Jewish non-Jew, Walter Benjamin vacillated between German Jew and Jewish German, Gershom Scholem was a committed Zionist, and Arnold Schonberg converted to Protestantism for professional reasons but later returned to Judaism. Carl Djerassi, himself a refugee from Hitler's Austria, dramatizes a dialogue between these four men in which they discuss fraternity, religious identity, and legacy as well as reveal aspects of their lives-notably their relations with their wives-that many have ignored, underemphasized, or misrepresented. The desire for canonization and the process by which it is obtained are the underlying themes of this dialogue, with emphasis on Paul Klee's Angelus Novus (1920), a canonized work that resonated deeply with Benjamin, Adorno, and Scholem (and for which Djerassi and Gabrielle Seethaler present a revisionist and richly illustrated interpretation).
Basing his dialogue on extensive archival research and interviews, Djerassi concludes with a daring speculation on the putative contents of Benjamin's famous briefcase, which disappeared upon his suicide.
Carl Djerassi, novelist, playwright, and emeritus professor of chemistry at Stanford University, is one of the few American scientists to have been awarded both the National Medal of Science (for the first synthesis of an oral contraceptive) and the National Medal of Technology. He has published an autobiography, a memoir, a collection of short stories, a poetry chapbook, five novels, and eight plays that have been staged all over the world. Gabriele Seethaler, an Austrian biochemist who became a photographer and artist, began to fuse art and science in a project entitled Identity Genotype-Phenotype. The Viennese Gallery Heike Curtze has shown her work since 2000.