When Hitler came to power Walter Benjamin did not immediately realize what the dictatorship had in store. Like many intellectuals, he counted on an early collapse of the regime. To begin with he seemed almost serene in the face of events. But events picked up speed, and, even though it was hard to obtain reliable news, by March 1933 it was apparent to him that “there can be no doubt that in very many instances people have been dragged from their beds in the night and beaten or murdered.” In 1928, during an exchange with André Gide, Benjamin compared Gide’s thought to a fort, “vast in its overall structure, replete with protective ramparts and protruding bastions, and above all strict in its forms and perfect in its deliberate dialectical construction.” Was this a self-portrait of Benjamin himself? Benjamin wrote that Gide had quoted Bougainville: “When we left the island, we called it Île du Salut” (Salvation Island). And Gide had added that “it is only when we leave something that we name it.” Tuesday morning, April 19, 1932. After an overnight crossing, the Barcelona-Ibiza ferry Ciudad de Valencia tied up at quayside. Benjamin disembarked from a third-class cabin and walked… Read full this story
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