Walter Benjamin was fascinated by the impact of new technology on culture, an interest that extended beyond his renowned critical essays. From 1927 to ’33, he wrote and presented something in the region of eighty broadcasts using the new medium of radio. Radio Benjamin gathers the surviving transcripts, which appear here for the first time in English. This eclectic collection demonstrates the range of Benjamin’s thinking and his enthusiasm for popular sensibilities. His celebrated “Enlightenment for Children” youth programs, his plays, readings, book reviews, and fiction reveal Benjamin in a creative, rather than critical, mode. They flesh out ideas elucidated in his essays, some of which are also represented here, where they cover topics as varied as getting a raise and the history of natural disasters, subjects chosen for broad appeal and examined with passion and acuity.
Delightful and incisive, this is Walter Benjamin channeling his sophisticated thinking to a wide audience, allowing us to benefit from a new voice for one of the twentieth century’s most respected thinkers.
This ebullient compendium collects Benjamin's heretofore obscure and mostly untranslated radio broadcasts aired between 1927 and 1933. The majority were written for children, though there are a handful of literary musings, radio dramas, practical advice, and reflections on radio that aimed at adults as well. In his Berlin Youth Hour broadcasts, Benjamin addresses Berlin's historical inheritance and cultural milieu, including its dialects, notable figures, architecture, and even its puppet theater. Benjamin also darkly recounts a number of historical catastrophes. In both their tone and mesmerizing array of subject matter, the broadcasts avoid the treacly condescension of contemporary children's programming. This collection's knowledgeable and deeply humanizing accounts of Berlin's physical and cultural landscape illuminate a world that was, much like Benjamin himself, destroyed by the violence of WWII. Rosenthal delicately establishes context while letting the pieces speak for themselves and acknowledges what is irretrievably lost. The editor and translators reveal Benjamin as a person, not just a thinker, and highlight his raconteur's finesse.