Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Celebrating Walter Benjamin at UAlbany

The University at Albany will host an international conference Sept. 28-29 on the work of the beloved literary critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), a German Jew who attempted to flee the Nazi regime, but committed suicide on the French-Spanish border after being apprehended by the Vichy authorities.

Wildly popular in intellectual circles after his death, Benjamin is famously uncharacterizable as a thinker and writer.

Turkish novelist Elif Shafak makes an effort to describe him (and to describe his importance to her) in an article in The Guardian last April:

"One doesn't read him to feel better. One reads him to feel. In his universe nothing is as it appears to be and there is a vital need to go beyond surfaces and connect with humanity. To live is to walk upon a pile of rubble, listening to any signs of life coming from under the ruins."


The opening event of the conference is free, open and designed for the general public:  a presentation by quirky novelist and electronic literary artist Paul La Farge, sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute.