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Radio Benjamin

“The German critic was not only a theorist of the media – he was a gifted broadcaster as well.” – Financial Times

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.

Reviews

  • “Radio Benjamin could hardly be bettered... There really is no parallel for what Benjamin did in these talks. Imagine a particularly engaging episode of Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time narrated by Alan Bennett – if Bennett were more profoundly steeped in Marx and politically engaged by the revolutionary potential of the medium of radio – and you have something of their allure.”
  • “This collection shows a lighter – though entirely characteristic – side to this most influential of 20th-century thinkers.”
  • “Like the best of children’s writers, he never condescends to his audience, and he communicates his encyclopaedic passion for the teeming immensity of the modern metropolis in vivid, engaging prose...He takes the standard villains of the children’s tale – the witch, the Gypsy, the robber – and shows that they were men and women who were often the victims of cruel prejudice.”
  • “Walter Benjamin, one of the first theorists to ponder the social impact of mass media [...] was equally entranced by the way thin air mysteriously transmits radio waves. In 1927, five years before he exiled himself from Germany in advance of the Nazi putsch, Benjamin began a series of experimental broadcasts on this new medium.”
  • “[An] ebullient compendium...In both their tone and mesmerizing array of subject matter, the broadcasts avoid the treacly condescension of contemporary children’s programming.”
  • “There has been no more original, no more serious critic and reader in our time.”
  • “Everything which fell under the scrutiny of his words was transformed, as though it had become radioactive.”
  • “A complex and brilliant writer.”
  • “Benjamin was one of the unclassifiable ones ... whose work neither fits the existing order nor introduces a new genre.”
  • “Benjamin buckled himself to the task of revolutionary transformation … his life and work speak challengingly to us all.”

Blog

  • 50% off our Theory Shelves!

    In the newly published Metaphilosophy, Henri Lefebvre works through the implications of Marx’s revolutionary thought to consider philosophy’s engagement with the world.

    Designed with this beautiful die-cut cover (cover design by Neil Donnelly), Metaphilosophy is a key text in Lefebvre’s oeuvre and a milestone in contemporary thinking about philosophy’s relation to the world.

    To mark publication of Metaphilosophy we have 50% off this book, and a selection of some of the best from our theory shelves, when you buy two books or more. Includes recent releases Reading Captital: A Complete Edition, and An American Utopia, as well as best-sellers like Critique of Everyday Life. See below, and to the right, for the full list. Click here to activate your 50% off.

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  • Walter Benjamin, The Storyteller: The Verso podcast in collaboration with the London Review Bookshop

    The Storyteller: Tales Out Of Loneliness gathers for the first time the fiction of Walter Benjamin, edited and translated by Sam Dolbear, Esther Leslie and Sebastian Truskolaski. His stories revel in the erotic tensions of city life, cross the threshold of dreamworlds, celebrate the ludic, and delve into the relationship between fortune-telling and gambling. An edited excerpt from the editors’ introduction, ‘The Storyteller: Walter Benjamin and the Magnetic Play of Words’, is published below, laying out how, taken together, the novellas, fables, histories, aphorisms, parables and riddles in this collection illuminate the themes that defined Benjamin’s work. 

    In the latest Verso podcast in collaboration with the London Review Bookshop, Esther Leslie, Marina Warner and Michael Rosen join Gareth Evans to discuss his experimentation with form and media, his concept of storytelling and the communicability of experience, and the themes that run throughout Benjamin’s creative and critical writing.


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  • 'Walter Benjamin: The Refugee and Migrant'—by Esther Leslie

    Speaking at Walter Benjamin Now, an event at Whitechapel Gallery marking the 75th anniversary of Benjamin's death, Esther Leslie thinks through Benjamin's concepts, in particular the ‘microcosm’, to reflect on the contemporary migrant crisis at the borders of Fortress Europe. These ‘millions of nameless movers’ give Benjamin’s own death a contemporary resonance, as well as endowing his memorial with new meaning in ‘the Now’.

    Esther Leslie is a translator of Walter Benjamin’s ‘The Storyteller’ and author of ‘Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant-Garde’.


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Other books by Walter Benjamin Edited by Lecia Rosenthal Translated by Jonathan Lutes With Lisa Harries Schumann and Diana Reese

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