Quotes from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections

Walter Benjamin ·  288 pages

Rating: (8.4K votes)


“Writers are really people who write books not because they are poor, but because they are dissatisfied with the books which they could buy but do not like.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections


“How many cities have revealed themselves to me in the marches I undertook in the pursuit of books!”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections


“It is the task of the translator to release in his own language that pure language that is under the spell of another, to liberate the language imprisoned in a work in his re-creation of that work.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections


“You could tell a lot about a man by the books he keeps - his tastes, his interest, his habits.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections


“Every morning brings us news of the globe, and yet we are poor in noteworthy stories. This is because no event comes to us without being already shot through with explanation. In other words, by now almost nothing that happens benefits storytelling; almost everything benefits information. Actually, it is half the art of storytelling to keep a story free from explanation as one reproduces it. . . . The most extraordinary things, marvelous things, are related with the greatest accuracy, but the psychological connection of the event is not forced on the reader. It is left up to him to interpret things the way he understands them, and thus the narrative achieves an amplitude that information lacks.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections



“No poem is intended for the reader, no picture for the beholder, no symphony for the listener.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections


“The important thing for the remembering author is not what he experienced, but the weaving of his memory, the Penelope work of recollection. Or should one call it, rather, the Penelope work of forgetting? ... And is not his work of spontaneous recollection, in which remembrance is the woof and forgetting the warp, a counterpart to Penelope's work rather than its likeness? For here the day unravels what the night has woven. When we awake each morning, we hold in our hands, usually weakly and loosely, but a few fringes of the tapestry of a lived life, as loomed for us by forgetting. However, with our purposeful activity and, even more, our purposive remembering each day unravels the web and the ornaments of forgetting.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections


“What has been forgotten.... is never something purely individual.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections


“Any order is a balancing act of extreme precariousness.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections


“This process of assimilation, which takes place in depth, requires a state of relaxation that is becoming rarer and rarer. If sleep is the apogee of physical relaxation, boredom is the apogee of mental relaxation. Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience. A rustling in the leaves drives him away. His nesting places - the activities that are intimately associated with boredom - are already extinct in the cities and are declining in the country as well. With this the gift for listening is lost and the community of listeners disappears. For storytelling is always the art of repeated stories, and this art is lost when the stories are no longer retained.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections



“Languages are not strangers to on another.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections


“We do not always proclaim loudly the most important thing we have to say. Nor do we always privately share it with those closest to us, our intimate friends, those who have been most devotedly ready to receive our confession.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections


“A generation that had gone to school on a horse-drawn streetcar now stood under the open sky in a countryside in which nothing remained unchanged but the clouds, and beneath these clouds, in a field of force of destructive torrents and explosions, was the tiny, fragile human body.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections


“Fragments of a vessel which are to be glued together must match one another in the smallest details, although they need not be like one another. In the same way a translation, instead of resembling the meaning of the original, must lovingly and in detail incorporate the original's mode of signification, thus making both the original and the translation recognizable as fragments of a greater language, just as fragments are part of a vessel.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections


“Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections



“As Hegel put it, only when it is dark does the owl of Minerva begin its flight. Only in extinction is the collector comprehend.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections


“what draws the reader to the novel is the hope of warming his shivering life with a death he reads about”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections


“The camera introduces us to unconscious optics as does psychoanalysis to unconscious impulses.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections


“Thus there is in the life of a collector a dialectical tensions between the poles of disorder and order.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections


“A man listening to a story is in the company of the storyteller; even a man reading one shares this companionship. The reader of a novel, however, is isolated, more so than any other reader(For even the reader of a poem is ready to utter the words, for the benefit of the listener.) In this solitude of his, the reader of
a novel seizes upon his material more jealously than anyone else. He is ready to make it completely his own, to devour it, as it were. Indeed, he destroys, he swallows up the material as the fire devours logs in the fireplace. The suspense which permeates the novel is
very much like the draft which stimulates the flame in the fireplace and enlivens its play.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections



“In connection with these reflections he coined the phrase mémoire involontaire. This concept bears the marks of the situation which gave rise to it; it is part of the inventory of the individual who is isolated in many ways. Where there is experience in the strict sense of the word, certain contents of the individual past combine with material of the collective past. The rituals with their ceremonies, their festivals (quite probably nowhere recalled in Proust’s work) kept producing the amalgamation of these two elements of memory over and over again. They triggered recollection at certain times and remained handles of memory for a lifetime. In this way, voluntary and involuntary recollection lose their mutual exclusiveness.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections


“From this story it may be seen what the nature of true storytelling is. The value of information does not survive the moment in which it was new. It lives only at that moment; it has to surrender to it completely and explain itself to it without losing any time. A story is different. It does not expend itself. It preserves and concentrates its strength and is capable of releasing it even after a long time.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections


“Our taverns and our metropolitan streets, our offices and furnished rooms, our railroad stations and our factories appeared to have us locked up hopelessly. Then came the film and burst this prison-world asunder by the dynamite of the tenth of a second, so that now, in the midst of its far-clung ruins and debris, we calmly and adventurously go traveling.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections


“The most profound enchantment for the collector is the locking of individual items within a magic circle in which they are fixed as the final thrill, the thrill of acquisition, passes over them.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections


“The value of information does not survive the moment in which it was new. It lives only at that moment; it has to surrender to it completely and explain itself to it without losing any time. A story is different. It does not expend itself. It preserves and concentrates its strength and is capable of releasing it even after a long time.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections



“meaning is never found in relative independence, as in individual words or sentences; rather, it is in a constant state of flux –”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections


“A historical materialist approaches a historical subject only where he encounters it as a monad. In this structure he recognizes the sign of a Messianic cessation of happening, or, put differently, a revolutionary chance in the fight for the oppressed past.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections


“For inside him there are spirits, or at least little genii, which have seen to it that for a collector - and I mean a real collector, a collector as he ought to be - ownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have to objects. Not that they come alive in him; it is he who lives in them.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections


“how different everything would have been “if they had been victorious in life who have won victory in death.”
― Walter Benjamin, quote from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections


About the author

Walter Benjamin
Born place: in Berlin, Germany
Born date July 15, 1892
See more on GoodReads

Popular quotes

“I want purple trews, lass," Drustan called over the door.
"No," she said irritably.
"And a purple shirt.”
― Karen Marie Moning, quote from Kiss of the Highlander


“What's this outfit? You can't afford clothes? Are you wearing other peoples?"
Helen Plum”
― Janet Evanovich, quote from Two for the Dough


“Know your enemy, know his sword.”
― Miyamoto Musashi, quote from A Book of Five Rings: The Classic Guide to Strategy


“Never trust a man with a penis.”
― Darynda Jones, quote from Third Grave Dead Ahead


“Stories exist to entertain and inspire us. They’re merely veils of hope for when we see the ugliness of the world.”
― Felix Alexander, quote from The Last Valentine


Interesting books

The Wasteland, Prufrock and Other Poems
(9.2K)
The Wasteland, Prufr...
by T.S. Eliot
Dawn
(18.7K)
Dawn
by Octavia E. Butler
Speechless
(10.7K)
Speechless
by Hannah Harrington
The Magician's Land
(49.3K)
The Magician's Land
by Lev Grossman
The Whale Rider
(5.6K)
The Whale Rider
by Witi Ihimaera
All These Things I've Done
(12.9K)
All These Things I'v...
by Gabrielle Zevin

About BookQuoters

BookQuoters is a community of passionate readers who enjoy sharing the most meaningful, memorable and interesting quotes from great books. As the world communicates more and more via texts, memes and sound bytes, short but profound quotes from books have become more relevant and important. For some of us a quote becomes a mantra, a goal or a philosophy by which we live. For all of us, quotes are a great way to remember a book and to carry with us the author’s best ideas.

We thoughtfully gather quotes from our favorite books, both classic and current, and choose the ones that are most thought-provoking. Each quote represents a book that is interesting, well written and has potential to enhance the reader’s life. We also accept submissions from our visitors and will select the quotes we feel are most appealing to the BookQuoters community.

Founded in 2023, BookQuoters has quickly become a large and vibrant community of people who share an affinity for books. Books are seen by some as a throwback to a previous world; conversely, gleaning the main ideas of a book via a quote or a quick summary is typical of the Information Age but is a habit disdained by some diehard readers. We feel that we have the best of both worlds at BookQuoters; we read books cover-to-cover but offer you some of the highlights. We hope you’ll join us.