The Story of a Friendship
New York Review of Books, Paperback, 9781590170328, 302pp.
Publication Date: April 30, 2003
Gershom Scholem is celebrated as the twentieth century's most profound student of the Jewish mystical tradition; Walter Benjamin, as a master thinker whose extraordinary essays mix the revolutionary, the revelatory, and the esoteric. Scholem was a precocious teenager when he met Benjamin, who became his close friend and intellectual mentor. His account of that relationship—which was to remain crucial for both men—is both a celebration of his friend's spellbinding genius and a lament for the personal and intellectual self-destructiveness that culminated in Benjamin's suicide in 1940.
At once prickly and heartbroken, argumentative and loving, Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship is an absorbing memoir with the complication of character and motive of a novel. As Scholem revisits the passionate engagements over Marxism and Kabbala, Europe and Palestine that he shared with Benjamin, it is as if he sought to summon up his lost friend's spirit again, to have the last word in the argument that might have saved his life.
Harry Zohn is professor of German language and literature at Brandeis University. He is the translator of "Max Weber: A Biography "written by Marianne Weber and recently reissued by Transaction Publishers.
Lee Siegel writes about culture and politics for a wide variety of publications, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and is a recipient of the National Magazine Award. He is the author of three books: Falling Upwards: Essays in Defense of the Imagination; Not Remotely Controlled: Notes on Television; and Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob. He lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with his wife and two children.