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In 1947, philosophers Horkheimer (1895-1973) and Adorno (1903-69) joined forces to explain why humanity, instead of entering a truly human state, is sinking into a new kind of barbarism. They attribute the relapse into mythology not so much to the nationalist, pagan, or other modern mythologies concocted specifically to cause such a relapse, but to a fear of truth that petrifies enlightenment itself. Edmund Jephcott translates the German text from volume five of Horkheimer's collected works. There is no index. Annotation c. Book News, Inc. , Portland, OR (booknews. com)
Every line we succeed in publishing today . . . is a victory wrested from the powers of darkness. So wrote Walter Benjamin in January 1940. Not long afterward, he himself would fall prey to those powers, a victim of suicide following a failed attempt to flee the Nazis. However insistently the idea of catastrophe hangs over Benjamin's writings in the final years of his life, the victories wrested in this period nonetheless constitute some of the most remarkable 20th-century analyses of the emergence of modern society. The essays on Charles Baudelaire are the distillation of a lifetime of thinking about the nature of modernity. They record the crisis of meaning experienced by a civilization sliding into the abyss, even as they testify to Benjamin's own faith in the written word. This volume ranges from studies of Baudelaire, Brecht, and the historian Carl Jochmann to appraisals of photography, film and poetry. At their core is the question of how art can survive and thrive in a tumultuous time. Here we see Benjamin laying out an ethic for the critic and artist - a subdued but resilient heroism. At the same time, he was setting forth a sociohistorical account of how art adapts in an
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