ABOUT THIS BOOK
The correspondence between Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno, which appears here for the first time in its entirety in English translation, must rank among the most significant to have come down to us from that notable age of barbarism, the twentieth century. Benjamin and Adorno formed a uniquely powerful pair. Benjamin, riddle-like in his personality and given to tactical evasion, and Adorno, full of his own importance, alternately support and compete with each other throughout the correspondence, until its imminent tragic end becomes apparent to both writers. Each had met his match, and happily, in the other. This book is the story of an elective affinity. Adorno was the only person who managed to sustain an intimate intellectual relationship with Benjamin for nearly twenty years. No one else, not even Gershom Scholem, coaxed so much out of Benjamin.
The more than one hundred letters in this book will allow readers to trace the developing character of Benjamin's and Adorno's attitudes toward each other and toward their many friends. When this book appeared in German, it caused a sensation because it includes passages previously excised from other German editions of the letters--passages in which the two friends celebrate their own intimacy with frank remarks about other people. Ideas presented elliptically in the theoretical writings are set forth here with much greater clarity. Not least, the letters provide material crucial for understanding the genesis of Benjamin's Arcades Project.
To reconsider the relationship between Theodore Adorno and Walter Benjamin is to reflect on one of the most enduring philosophical friendships of the twentieth century.
-- Richard Wolin New Republic
The publication in English of the Benjamin-Adorno correspondence (this book was published in German in 1994) is a welcome event. The friendship of these two famous intellectuals was a fruitful one, and since the circumstances of their lives enforced long separations, their letters had to bear the weight of a monumental exchange of ideas...My only complaint would be that the bibliographic references (like the rest of the text) are a straight translation from the German, and thus direct us always to a volume in Benjamin's Gesammelte Schriften. Far more useful for someome reading these letters in English translation would be references to Harvard's superb volumes of Benjamin in translation, three of which have appeared in the last three years. Reading the relevant sections of The Arcades Project (Harvard, 1999) with the Adorno-Benjamin discussions of them in this volume also at hand is an intellectual experience of the very highest order.
-- David S. Gross World Literature Today
The extensive correspondence between Adorno and Benjamin--now happily available in English--reveals the complexities of their tortured philosophical friendship.
-- James Miller New York Times Book Review
The extraordinary and unique qualities of this correspondence stem from the confrontation, in stages, between two of the most intense and energetic minds of the century.
-- Fredric R. Jameson, Duke University
As each correspondent held the other's professional opinion in high esteem, both send many pages discussing current research, criticizing each other's manuscripts, and reviewing the latest academic publications. Their letters help to trace the shaping of such significant projects as Benjamin's work on Kafka and Baudelaire and Adorno's on Wagner and jazz, and command respect for their erudition in a wide range of fields, from philosophy to modern culture. As first names eventually replace 'Herr Wiesengrund' and 'Herr Benjamin,' the letters shed more light on the personalities and daily preoccupations of the two friends...These letters do let Benjamin and Adorno speak eloquently for themselves on many complex issues.
-- Kirkus Reviews
Aside from the chronicle of an extraordinary friendship lasting 20 years, [this book shows that] it was essentially in dialogue with Adorno--passionate and often adversarial--that Benjamin constructed his materialist view of history.
-- Peter Philbrook bn.com
The 121 letters in this carefully annotated and beautifully translated volume present a remarkable dialogue between two innovative thinkers. In Paris, Benjamin was living hand-to-mouth, working on his Arcades Project, a penetrating inquiry into the cultural underpinnings of 19th-century Europe. In England at Merton College, Oxford, Adorno was working on a variety of projects, including raising money to keep Benjamin afloat...Adorno was also an exacting reader of Benjamin's work. He pressed the elusive thinker hard and in illuminating detail on The Arcades Project. Over many of its pages, this correspondence delved deeply into this strange, unfinished masterpiece.
-- Publishers Weekly
The Complete Correspondence 1928-1940 is an excellent accompaniment to The Arcades Project since a considerable portion of the correspondence between Adorno and Benjamin included here concerns the work that Benjamin called 'the theater of all my struggles and all my ideas.' Originally published in Germany in 1994, the 121 letters included begin in 1928 and allow an intimate look at the two men's personalities, their philosophical thinking, and their attitudes toward the events, persons, and ideologies of the contemporary world.
-- Leon H. Brody Library Journal
The publication in English of the Benjamin-Adorno correspondence is a welcome event. The friendship of these two intellectuals was a fruitful one, and since the circumstances of their lives enforced long separations, their letters had to bear the weight of a monumental exchange of ideas
The discussion of intellectual theory and practice in that exchange remains of great value for our work in this new century.
-- David S. Gross World Literature Today