Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681370583
Pages: 128
Publication Date: July 23, 2019

The Storyteller Essays

by Walter Benjamin, translated from the German by Tess Lewis, edited and with an introduction by Samuel Titan


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An NYRB Classics Original

“The Storyteller” is one of Walter Benjamin’s most important essays, a beautiful and suggestive meditation on the relation between narrative form, social life, and individual existence—and the product of at least a decade’s work. What might be called the story of The Storyteller Essays starts in 1926, with a piece Benjamin wrote about the German romantic Johann Peter Hebel. It continues in a series of short essays, book reviews, short stories, parables, and even radio shows for children. This collection brings them all together to give readers a new appreciation of how Benjamin’s thinking changed and ripened over time, while including several key readings of his own—texts by his contemporaries Ernst Bloch and Georg Lukács; by Paul Valéry; and by Herodotus and Montaigne. Finally, to bring things around, there are three short stories by “the incomparable Hebel” with whom the whole intellectual adventure began.


A master of the essay, list, theoretical long-take, fragment, aphorism, speech, pedagogical manifesto, and even the book review, Benjamin commanded a variety of prose forms.
The Guardian

Benjamin famously wrote that ‘knowledge comes only in lightning flashes. The text is the long roll of thunder that follows.’... [The] experience of reading Benjamin feels a little like the reverse. You are set down in a dense and unfamiliar city, and have to work to get your bearings. It can seem aimless, an endless roll of thunder, until you stop to breathe for a moment, to linger on an old word or an image slightly aslant, and—suddenly—you take in a new illumination.
—David Wallace, The New Yorker

The German-Jewish essayist and cultural theorist Walter Benjamin remains a fascinating puzzle for readers and critics alike. There was no one quite like him: a philosopher at home in literature, a creative writer proficient in political theory and art history, a dedicated collector of things that have been forgotten or suppressed, an astute observer of modernity and technology who was as interested in mysticism as in Marxism.
—Elif Shafak, Financial Time