“Walter Benjamin Reimagined: A Graphic Translation of Poetry, Prose, Aphorisms, and Dreams” by Frances Cannon— Walter Benjamin’s Ideas, A Graphic Translation

Cannon, Frances. “Walter Benjamin Reimagined: A Graphic Translation of Poetry, Prose, Aphorisms, and Dreams”, The MIT Press, 2019.

Walter Benjamin’s ideas, A Graphic Translation

Amos Lassen

Walter Benjamin was a man of letters, an art critic, an essayist, a translator, a philosopher, a collector, and an urban flâneur. It was never enough just to see something, he had to experience it and thus in his writings he ambles, samples, and explores. In “Walter Benjamin Reimagined”, author Frances Cannon presents a visual and literary response to Benjamin’s work. Through detailed pen-and-ink drawings and hand-lettered text, Cannon takes us on an illuminated tour of Walter Benjamin’s thoughts―a graphic translation, an encyclopedia of fragments.

This is not only a guide to Benjamin’s greatest ideas it is also a beautifully rendered work of graphic literature. Benjamin’s words and Cannon’s drawings construct a creative topography of Benjamin’s writing. Phrases from “Unpacking My Library,” for example, are accompanied by images of flying papers, stray books, stacked books, books “not yet touched by the mild boredom of order”. We go through different periods of Benjamin’s writing: “Artifacts of Youth,” nostalgic musings on his childhood; “Fragments of a Critical Eye,” early writings, political observations, and cultural criticism; “Athenaeum of Imagination,” meditations on philosophy and psychology; “A Stroll through the Arcades,” Benjamin’s unfinished magnum opus; and “A Collection of Dreams and Stories,” experimental and fantastical writings. This is so much more than a feast for the eye and desert for the mind and is highly recommended. It is a “phantasmagorical tribute to Benjamin’s wandering eye.”

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