On Literature | Walter Benjamin, 1892-1940

Walter Benjamin, 1892-1940


"Literature tells very little to those who understand it."

"All great works of literature either dissolve a genre or invent one."

"Of all the ways of acquiring books, writing them oneself is regarded as the
most praiseworthy method."

"Work on good prose has three steps: a musical stage when it is composed, an architectonic
one when it is built, and a textile one when it is woven."

"You could tell a lot about a man by the books he keeps - his tastes, his interest, his habits."

"To a book collector, you see, the true freedom of all books is somewhere on his shelves."

"In every case the storyteller is a man who has counsel for his readers."

"Writers are really people who write books not because they are poor, but because 
they are dissatisfied with the books which they could buy but do not like."

"No poem is intended for the reader, no picture for the beholder, no symphony for the listener."

"Never stop writing because you have run out of ideas. Fill the lacunae of inspiration
by tidily copying out what is already written."

"Any translation which intends to perform a transmitting function cannot
transmit anything but information-hence, something inessential. This is the
hallmark of bad translations."

"The power of a text when it is read is different from the power it has when it is copied
out. Only the copied text thus commands the soul of him who is occupied with it, whereas
the mere reader never discovers the new aspects of his inner self that are opened by the text,
that road cut through the interior jungle forever closing behind it: because the reader follows
the movement of his mind in the free flight of day-dreaming, whereas the copier submits
it to command."

"Books, too, begin like the week – with a day of rest in memory of their creation.
The preface is their Sunday."

"I am unpacking my library. Yes I am. The books are not yet on the shelves,
not yet touched by the mild boredom of order."

"Books and harlots have their quarrels in public."


Walter Benjamin, 1892-1940


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