Mittwoch, 26. September 2018

Theodor W. Adorno - Walter Benjamin - Briefwechsel

78 years ago, on September 26, 1940, at the age of 48, Walter Benjamin committed suicide at Portbou on the French–Spanish border while attempting to escape from invading Nazi forces.
Walter Benjamin and Theodor W. Adorno first became acquainted in Frankfurt in 1923 through Siegfried Kracauer, a contributing editor at the Frankfurter Zeitung since 1921.

Kracauer had taken the young Wiesengrund under his wing, tutoring him on Kant’s "Critique of Pure Reason" on Saturday afternoons. Benjamin was in Frankfurt intermittently after 1922 arranging to do his habilitation, his last-ditch effort to obtain a professorship at a German university after losing out to Karl Mannheim in competition for a seat in Heidelberg. Adorno was still a student reading philosophy, music, psychology and sociology, but he had also begun publishing music criticism in journals.

In 1924 Adorno finished his doctoral dissertation on Husserl with Hans Cornelius, the same professor to whom, the following year, Benjamin’s habilitation thesis was referred by the professor of German, Franz Shultz, when Shultz found it incomprehensible, and with whom Max Horkeimer was working as an assistant. Benjamin was allowed to withdraw his thesis on German Baroque drama to avoid the embarrassment of rejection, and afterwards gave up his academic ambitions for a career as a literary critic. Adorno’s thesis was submitted to Cornelius in 1927, and like Benjamin, he was forced to withdraw it after Cornelius, supported by Horkeimer (who disliked it for its insufficient Marxism), refused to accept it. For the next few years, Adorno pursued a career as a music critic.

The relationship between Adorno and Benjamin was solidified in 1929 in Königsberg, when Benjamin read Adorno, Horkeimer, and Greta Karplus (whom Adorno later married) his proposal for a philosophical history of the 19th century, which would retrospectively be referred to as an intellectual watershed for everyone involved. In 1929, Paul Tillich took over Cornelius’ chair of philosophy, and Adorno, by then greatly under Benjamin’s influence, was able to gain acceptance of his habilitation on “The Construction of the Aesthetic in Kierkegaard” in 1931. In one of the first seminars offered by Adorno, the class spent the semester reading Benjamin’s “failed” habilitation.

After 1933, when Adorno and Benjamin were forced into exile, their relationship became increasingly close, as Adorno provided Benjamin with his only real financial support through the Institute for Social Research, headed by Horkeimer.

The correspondence between Walter Benjamin and Theodor W. Adorno must rank among the most significant to have come down to us from that notable age of barbarism, the twentieth century. Benjamin and Adorno formed a uniquely powerful pair. Benjamin, riddle-like in his personality and given to tactical evasion, and Adorno, full of his own importance, alternately support and compete with each other throughout the correspondence, until its imminent tragic end becomes apparent to both writers. Each had met his match, and happily, in the other. Adorno was the only person who managed to sustain an intimate intellectual relationship with Benjamin for nearly twenty years. No one else, not even Gershom Scholem, coaxed so much out of Benjamin.



Theodor W. Adorno - Walter Benjamin - Briefwechsel
(audiobook, German language)

2 Kommentare:

Feilimid O'Broin hat gesagt…

Many thanks for this. I had read about the relationship between Adorno and Benjamin in English years ago and am looking forward to learning about it German.

I thoroughly enjoy the audio books, film, and music you have posted recently. The historical books and music you have posted from the early twentieth century bring to life an era in Germany that I have studied and are simply fantastic.

zero hat gesagt…

Glad that you enjoy these postings - and thanks a lot for your feedback!

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