By Svetlana Boym

Combining own memoir, philosophical essay, and old research, Svetlana Boym explores the areas of collective nostalgia that attach nationwide biography and private self-fashioning within the twenty-first century. She publications us during the ruins and building websites of post-communist cities-St. Petersburg, Moscow, Berlin, and Prague-and the imagined homelands of exiles-Benjamin, Nabokov, Mandelstahm, and Brodsky. From Jurassic Park to the Totalitarian Sculpture backyard, Boym unravels the threads of this international epidemic of longing and its antidotes.

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If initially of the 20 th century modernists and avant-gardists outlined themselves by means of disavowing nostalgia for the earlier, on the finish of the 20 th century mirrored image on nostalgia may well deliver us to redefine severe modernity and its temporal ambivalence and cultural contradictions. “There is not any record of civilization which isn't whilst a record of barbarism,” wrote Walter Benjamin. those phrases seem at the writer’s tombstone in Port Bou, Spain, in a beach Catholic cemetery having fun with a wide ranging view of the Pyrenees. 26 actually, this isn't fairly a tombstone yet a memorial to the author whose grave continues to be unmarked. Benjamin, a German Jewish conflict refugee, who lived the decade of his existence in voluntary exile in France, dedicated suicide at the French-Spanish border in 1940 while his passage into safeguard was once denied. He as soon as paradoxically pointed out himself as “the final European,” incapable of emigrating to the promised land (be it Palestine or the United States). “Why are you searching for Benjamin? ” the guy within the neighborhood Chamber of trade requested me, while I visited Port Bou in 1995. “He isn't really even from the following. there are various different attention-grabbing issues to work out on the town. ” certainly, Port Bou, a bustling Catalan frontier city with a wide migrant inhabitants from southern Spain, has little to do with Benjamin. That insurmountable border Benjamin was once no longer allowed to move now quantities to an outdated customs shack, a Coca-Cola stand and some multilingual advertisements for the hot without boundary lines Europe. I learn the inscription at the memorial in Catalan: “To Walter Benjamin, a German thinker. ” (The comparable inscription is translated into German. ) by some means it upsets me that Benjamin, who used to be by no means authorized as a thinker in his lifetime (certainly no longer in Nazi Germany), got this posthumous, nostalgic name from Catalan and German governments. Why now not at the least “German-Jewish guy of letters,” as Hannah Arendt referred to as him, or perhaps “a ecu writer”? subsequent to the stone is an unfinished monument to the author, a contested destroy and development web site whose sponsorship is debated among the German, Spanish and Catalan neighborhood governments. For now it really is known as a monument to the ecu exiles in all 3 languages to prevent overseas clash. The paintings, via Dana Karavan, represents a passageway, Benjamin’s favourite metaphor (as in Passage, a nineteenth-century purchasing arcade, the place he chanced on a lot of his longing). merely this chimneylike steel passageway resembles extra heavily a staircase to dying or perhaps a gasoline chamber, now not a exhibit of city souvenirs and commodities. discovering this photograph too grim and regrettably predictable, I stroll down the staircase of sorrow towards the ocean the place Benjamin’s ashes may need came across their resting position. right here a shock awaits me. Down lower than there isn't any go out. but nor is there a useless finish. as a substitute I see breaking waves, white foam shimmering within the twilight and my very own uncanny mirrored image. there's no wall on the finish of the passage reminding us of the wreckage of the prior, yet a reflective glass, a monitor for temporary good looks, a profane illumination.

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