Playing chess | Bertolt Brecht & Walter Benjamin, 1934

Bertolt Brecht and Walter Benjamin playing chess, Denmark, Skovsbostrand, 1934


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Ανώνυμος είπε...




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The story is told of an automaton constructed in such a way that it could play a winning game of chess, answering each move of an opponent with a countermove. A puppet in Turkish attire and with a hookah in its mouth sat before a chessboard placed on a large table. A system of mirrors created the illusion that this table was transparent from all sides. Actually, a little hunchback who was an expert chess player sat inside and guided the puppet’s hand by means of strings. One can imagine a philosophical counterpart to this device. The puppet called ‘historical materialism’ is to win all the time. It can easily be a match for anyone if it enlists the services of theology, which today, as we know, is wizened and has to keep out of sight.


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To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it ‘the way it really was’ (Ranke). It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger. Historical materialism wishes to retain that image of the past which unexpectedly appears to man singled out by history at a moment of danger. The danger affects both the content of the tradition and its receivers. The same threat hangs over both: that of becoming a tool of the ruling classes. In every era the attempt must be made anew to wrest tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it. The Messiah comes not only as the redeemer, he comes as the subduer of Antichrist. Only that historian will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in the past who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious.



Walter Benjamim / On the Concept of History 1940



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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Turk
Wolfgang von Kempelen / The Turk / the Mechanical Turk / Automaton Chess Player / 1770

http://www.eapoe.org/works/essays/maelzel.htm
Edgar Allan Poe / Maelzel's Chess-Player / Southern Literary Messenger / April 1836


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Ανώνυμος είπε...






Consider the darkness and the great cold
In this vale which resounds with mystery.^


We attacked a foreign people and treated them like rebels. As you know, it’s all right to treat barbarians barbarically. It’s the desire to be barbaric that makes governments call their enemies barbarians.”

The worst illiterate is the political illiterate, he doesn’t hear, doesn’t speak, nor participates in the political events. He doesn’t know the cost of life, the price of the bean, of the fish, of the flour, of the rent, of the shoes and of the medicine, all depends on political decisions. The political illiterate is so stupid that he is proud and swells his chest saying that he hates politics. The imbecile doesn’t know that, from his political ignorance is born the prostitute, the abandoned child, and the worst thieves of all, the bad politician, corrupted and flunky of the national and multinational companies.”


Bertolt Brecht / ^The Threepenny Opera


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