The Storyteller Essays by Walter Benjamin

These are interesting essays by Walter Benjamin who is now considered to have been the most important German literary critic in the first half of the 20th century.

Born into a prosperous Jewish family, Benjamin studied philosophy in Berlin, Freiburg im Breisgau, Munich, and Bern. He settled in Berlin in 1920 and worked as a literary critic and translator. Benjamin eventually settled in Paris after leaving Germany in 1933 upon the Nazis’ rise to power. He continued to write essays and reviews for literary journals, but when France fell to the invading Germans in 1940 he fled southward with the hope of escaping to the United States via Spain. Informed by the chief of police at the town of Port-Bou on the Franco-Spanish border that he would be turned over to the Gestapo, Benjamin committed suicide.

The book comprises short essays, short stories, and parables. The reason I give this book 2/5 stars is not so much the content but the editing standards of the New York Review of Books. An essay on the Lisbon earthquake gets the date wrong (by 20 years) and in another essay Scott and Stevenson are referred to as ‘English’ writers (from a country of origin perspective).

Also, if you didn’t know about the Tale of Psammenitus the King of Egypt captured by Cambyses the King of Persia, and how he reacted when seeing his daughter dressed as a servant, his son being led to execution, and an old retainer being led away as a captive, before you read the book then you will know the story off by heart by the time you complete this book as the story is mentioned 5 times in 107 pages.

Published by Julian Worker

Julian was born in Leicester, attended school in Yorkshire, and university in Liverpool. He has been to 94 countries and territories and intends to make the 100 when travel is easier. He writes travel books, murder / mysteries and absurd fiction. His sense of humour is distilled from The Marx Brothers, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and Midsomer Murders. His latest book is about a Buddhist cat who tries to help his squirrel friend fly further from a children's slide.

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