發文作者:c.w. | 四月 26, 2005

Alchemist

Follow-up to Those books I bought, but never read from farawaysoclose

This month went to a conference. Probably the only occasion I’ve heard Benjamin more frequently than I did in college. Sometimes he is surprisingly contemporary. His famous anecdote of the “Angel of History," was told and told again in that five Welsh days.

I was reading Hannah Arendt’s introduction of this book tonight. There’s paragraph about chemist and alchemist. It goes like, if a piece of work is a funeral pyre, the “commentator" would be a chemist, is left with wood and ashes, while the “critic" care about the “enigma of the flame itself: the enigma of being alive."

It struck me right away. Who’s the commentator and who’s the critic? Which one do I want to be? Then I felt I was really lucky reading Hannah Arendt’s insights at this moment, the moment I am a bit disorienated in my own works, which definitely will happen from time to time in the future. But, wait, it was not from Arendt. It was a quote from Benjamin himself!

If he is an oddball, he must be the one who can see people’s eccentricities.


Responses

  1. Towards the end of the page, you’ll find some Heidegger sneaked into Arendt’s introduction: “… namely, we are dealing here with something which may not be unique but is certainly extremely rare: the gift of thinking poetically“.

    But I like her most when she quotes Shakespeare to make this ending note: “What guides [Benjamin’s] thinking is the conviction that although the living is subject to the ruin of the time, the process of decay is at the same time a process of crystallization… some things ‘suffer a sea–change’ … as though they waited only for the pearl diver who one day will come down to them and bring them up into the world of the living—as ‘thought fragments,’ as something ‘rich and strange,’ and perhaps even as everlasting Urphnomene."

    As a byline, I thought you were to mention Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist when I came upon the title of this blog entry.🙂

    COMMENT:

    I rushed to the end today. Where was I? It was beautifully written, well–organized, full of insights and poetic illustrations. Drilling but not excavating knowledge; a collector from the debris of history;surrealistic montage of quotations… I kept looking back for the date of writing. It was 1968.


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