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It was in Paris in 1937 that Georges Bataille introduced Pierre Missac to Walter Benjamin. This meeting launched the young French scholar on a half-century of engagement with Benjamin's work that culminated in the writing of Walter Benjamin's Passages. Taking a cue from his subject, Missac adopts a form of indirect critique in which independent details examined seemingly in passing emerge over the course of the book as parts of larger patterns of understanding. The interlocked essays move among such topics as reading and writing, collecting, the dialectic, and time and history. Many of the subjects are standard in Benjamin studies, but the freshness and directness of Missac's response to them makes this book compelling. After the war, Missac took it on himself to make Benjamin's work more widely known in France. He published a series of translations and critical essays and this one book, which appeared just a few months after his death in 1986. Benjamin, who committed suicide at age forty-eight, has no marked grave, and in one sense Walter Benjamin's Passages is a tombeau, a poem honoring a writer's achievement that in calmer times was written for the dedication of a physical monument but now must stand in place of the absent monument. It is a work of sophisticated and imaginative criticism that shows how Benjamin's work anticipated the future and how--as Missac's excursus on the glass atrium in the architecture of the 1980s shows--it can be fruitfully extended. Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought
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