Shoring Against the Ruins

I like this passage in Colin Dickey’s review of a new critical biography of Walter Benjamin

While we tend to vacillate schizophrenically between a kind of techno-futurist cheerleading (“The future’s so bright!”) and reactionary, apocalyptic jeremiads (“The future is doomed!”), Benjamin offered another attitude towards history — one in which we walk among the ruins of an already-present catastrophe, and the highest grace is a kind of vigilant mourning. “In all mourning there is a tendency to silence, and this infinitely more than inability or reluctance to communicate,” he wrote in 1925, but if “Melancholy betrays the world for the sake of knowledge,” in its “tenacious self-absorption it embraces dead objects in its contemplation, in order to redeem them.”

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