“That it ‘keeps going on like this’ is the catastrophe.” - Walter Benjamin
In 2008, I spent an entire night searching for this street sign in Berlin.
Walter Benjamin & Bertholt Brecht playing chess (Svendborg, Denmark 1934)
It is not enough to know that an ecstatic component lives in every revolutionary act. This component is identical to anarchy. To accentuate this exclusively would be to subordinate methodical and disciplined preparation for the revolution entirely to a praxis oscillating between fitness exercises and celebrations in advance.
These are days when no one should rely unduly on his ‘competence.’ Strength lies in improvisation. All the decisive blows are struck left-handed.
—Walter Benjamin, One-Way Street (in Reflections, trans. Edmund Jephcott)
Otto Dix, Die Skatspeiler [Cardplayers] aka Kartenspielende Kriegskrüppel [Cardplaying War Cripples], 1920 (Nationalgalerie Staatliche Museen, Berlin).
Walter Benjamin writes:Was it not noticeable at the end of the war that men returned from the battlefield grown silent — not richer, but poorer in communicable experience? What ten years later was poured out in the flood of war books was anything but experience that goes from mouth to mouth. And there was nothing remarkable about that. For never has experience been contradicted more thoroughly than strategic experience by tactical warfare, economic experience by inflation, bodily experience by mechanical warfare, moral experience by those in power. A generation that had gone to school on a horse-drawn-street-car now stood under the open sky in a countryside in which nothing remained unchanged but the clouds, and beneath these clouds, in a field force of destructive torrents and explosions, was the tiny, fragile human body.