Moscow Diary

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Harvard University Press, 1986 - Biography & Autobiography - 150 pages
2 Reviews

The life of the German-Jewish literary critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) is a veritable allegory of the life of letters in the twentieth century. Benjamin's intellectual odyssey culminated in his death by suicide on the Franco-Spanish border, pursued by the Nazis, but long before he had traveled to the Soviet Union. His stunning account of that journey is unique among Benjamin's writings for the frank, merciless way he struggles with his motives and conscience.

Perhaps the primary reason for his trip was his affection for Asja Lacis, a Latvian Bolshevik whom he had first met in Capri in 1924 and who would remain an important intellectual and erotic influence on him throughout the twenties and thirties. Asja Lacis resided in Moscow, eking out a living as a journalist, and Benjamin's diary is, on one level, the account of his masochistic love affair with this elusive--and rather unsympathetic--object of desire. On another level, it is the story of a failed romance with the Russian Revolution; for Benjamin had journeyed to Russia not only to inform himself firsthand about Soviet society, but also to arrive at an eventual decision about joining the Communist Party. Benjamin's diary paints the dilemma of a writer seduced by the promises of the Revolution yet unwilling to blinker himself to its human and institutional failings.

Moscow Diary is more than a record of ideological ambivalence; its literary value is considerable. Benjamin is one of the great twentieth-century physiognomists of the city, and his portrait of hibernal Moscow stands beside his brilliant evocations of Berlin, Naples, Marseilles, and Paris. Students of this particularly interesting period will find Benjamin's eyewitness account of Moscow extraordinarily illuminating.

  

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Review: Moscow Diary

User Review  - julie - Goodreads

What a tangled, strange existence Benjamin lived while in Moscow, caught in some kind of love triangle between an consumptive woma, Asja, and a fellow German, Reich. He went to the theatre nearly ... Read full review

Review: Moscow Diary

User Review  - Magdalena - Goodreads

What a strange biographical work. Benjamin reveals just how cantankerous be can be as at times his affair with aja is very uncomfortable. But that may have more to do with thinking it strange to imagine him being sweet with anyone. Read full review

Contents

Preface by Gershom Scholem
5
Appendices
123
Afterword by Gary Smith
138

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About the author (1986)

Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) was the author of many works of literary and cultural analysis.

Gary Smith is an editor at work on the Einstein Papers project.

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