Under the Sign of Saturn: Essays

By Susan Sontag

This 3rd essay assortment via America's major essayist brings jointly her most vital serious writing from 1972 to 1980, within which she explores the most influential artists and thinkers of our time.

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1974) lower than the signal of Saturn In many of the portrait pictures he's taking a look down, his correct hand to his face. The earliest one i do know indicates him in 1927—he is thirty-five—with darkish curly hair over a excessive brow, mustache above an entire reduce lip: younger, nearly good-looking. together with his head decreased, his jacketed shoulders appear to commence in the back of his ears; his thumb leans opposed to his jaw; the remainder of the hand, cigarette among bent index and 3rd hands, covers his chin; the downward glance through his glasses—the smooth, daydreamer’s gaze of the myopic—seems to drift off to the decrease left of the photo. In an image from the past due Nineteen Thirties, the curly hair has hardly ever receded, yet there's no hint of juvenile or handsomeness; the face has widened and the higher torso turns out not only excessive yet blocky, large. The thicker mustache and the pudgy folded hand with thumb tucked less than conceal his mouth. The glance is opaque, or simply extra inward: he will be thinking—or listening. (“He who listens difficult doesn’t see,” Benjamin wrote in his essay on Kafka. ) There are books in the back of his head. In a photo taken in the summertime of 1938, at the final of numerous visits he made to Brecht in exile in Denmark after 1933, he's status in entrance of Brecht’s residence, an outdated guy at forty-six, in white blouse, tie, trousers with watch chain: a slack, corpulent determine, taking a look truculently on the digital camera. one other photograph, from 1937, indicates Benjamin within the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. males, neither of whose face could be visible, percentage a desk a ways at the back of him. Benjamin sits within the correct foreground, most likely taking notes for the publication on Baudelaire and nineteenth-century Paris he were writing for a decade. he's consulting a quantity he holds open at the desk together with his left hand—his eyes can’t be seen—looking, because it have been, into the reduce correct fringe of the photo. His shut pal Gershom Scholem has defined his first glimpse of Benjamin in Berlin in 1913, at a joint assembly of a Zionist adolescence crew and Jewish participants of the loose German scholar organization, of which the twenty-one-year-old Benjamin used to be a pace-setter. He spoke “extempore with no loads as a look at his viewers, staring with a set stare upon a distant nook of the ceiling which he harangued with a lot depth, in a method by the way that was once, so far as I take note, prepared for print. ” * * * He was once what the French name un triste. In his early life he appeared marked by way of “a profound sadness,” Scholem wrote. He considered himself as a melancholic, disdaining sleek mental labels and invoking the normal astrological one: “I got here into the area below the signal of Saturn—the big name of the slowest revolution, the planet of detours and delays. …” His significant tasks, the publication released in 1928 at the German baroque drama (the Trauerspiel; actually, sorrow-play) and his by no means accomplished Paris, Capital of the 19th Century, can't be totally understood except one grasps how a lot they depend on a thought of depression. Benjamin projected himself, his temperament, into all his significant topics, and his temperament made up our minds what he selected to put in writing approximately.

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