"Every line we succeed in publishing today...is a victory wrested from the powers of darkness." So wrote Walter Benjamin in January 1940. Not long afterward, he himself would fall prey to those powers, a victim of suicide following a failed attempt to flee the Nazis. However insistently the idea of catastrophe hangs over Benjamin's writings in the final years of his life, the "victories wrested" in this period nonetheless constitute some of the most remarkable twentieth-century analyses of the emergence of modern society. This volume ranges from studies of Baudelaire, Brecht, and the historian Carl Jochmann to appraisals of photography, film, and poetry. At their core is the question of how art can survive and thrive in a tumultuous time. Here, we see Benjamin laying out an ethic for the critic and artist - a subdued but resilient heroism. The entire collection is eloquent testimony to the indomitable spirit of humanity under siege.
Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) was the author of many works of literary and cultural analysis. Howard Eiland teaches literature at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Michael W. Jennings is Professor of German, Princeton University.