Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht: The Story of a Friendship
Libris, £30 hb, 269 pp
German commentators have often asserted – not without some justification – that passages of the established Schlegel-Tieck translation of Shakespeare are superior to the original. A contentious proposition, perhaps. But in the case of the volume under review, which first appeared in German in 2004, there is no doubt that although, as the publisher’s note points out, ‘a section devoted to a discussion on the debate … about the initial republication and publication of Walter Benjamin’s work in Germany from the mid fifties’ has been omitted, the resulting book is clearer and more user-friendly than the original, with its arguments shown to better advantage. A chronology of the Benjamin-Brecht relationship (relocated more sensibly at the front of the book), plus a map and time chart of the two writers, make it easier to refer back to the stages and dates of the relationship, along with – so crucial to an understanding of the course of the friendship and temper of the debates between the two principal participants, as well other involved contemporaries – the stations of the exile years between 1933, 1941 (Benjamin’s death), and 1947 (Brecht’s return to Europe).