To celebrate Verso's new paperback edition of Erdmut Wizisla's Benjamin and Brecht: The Story of a Friendship, we present this selection of Walter Benjamin's diary entries on Bertolt Brecht, translated by Anya Bostock, which appeared in Aesthetics and Politics.
Benjamin and Brecht. Svendborg, Denmark, 1934.
4 July. Yesterday, a long conversation in Brecht’s sickroom about my essay "The Author as Producer." Brecht thought the theory I develop in the essay — that the attainment of technical progress in literature eventually changes the function of art forms (hence also of the intellectual means of production) and is therefore a criterion for judging the revolutionary function of literary works — applies to artists of only one type, the writers of the upper bourgeoisie, among whom he counts himself.
The Israeli historian Shlomo Sand made his name with his critical re-reading of the history of Israel, nationalism and Jewish identity. Trained in the French historical school, he is also a keen observer of intellectual life in Paris. His most recent book, devoted to the decline of a milieu which he once so admired, concludes with a sombre diagnosis. Translated by David Broder.
"When an intellectual makes eulogies to the police, the army, and the forces of the state, then he is out-of-step with the history of France since Voltaire. Houellebecq accuses the government of not being sufficiently militaristic. How can we imagine an intellectual, a writer, an artist taking a stance against the authorities saying they aren’t ‘muscular’ enough? It is astonishing to see how the intellectuals dominating the debate today are against immigrants, against foreigners, against the weakest [...] This neoconservatism is a sign of the times."
The burkini bans have ignited fierce debate in France and worldwide, while opinion polls suggested most French people backed the bans for reasons of secularism, or laïcité.
Sara R. Farris, Senior Lecture in the Sociology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London, examines the fundamentalism of laïcité.