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One of the great, unclassifiable writers of the century
on 4 March 1998
Walter Benjamin is easily one of the great German prose writers of our century, despite being almost impossible to classify. His subject matter is frequently literary, but he always transcends his subject matter to touch upon issues in philosophy, art, history, Marxism, and Western culture, illuminating (no pun intended) all he discusses. His essays on Proust and Kafka are priceless, and his essays on "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" and the theses on the philsophy of history, are classic.
But the best reason to read Benjamin is his prose. There are images in his essays on Proust and Kafka that are as superb as anything in Proust and Kafka. That is saying a lot, but it is true. As a philosopher, I value his example which proves that one can write meaningfully on philosophical topics, and yet write well. This collection of his essays, ILLUMINATIONS, is preferable to the second collection to appear in English, REFLECTIONS, though that one is also worth the time and effort.