Thursday, February 23, 2006

by Jorie Graham

ON DESCRIPTION

(from Walter Benjamin's ILLUMINATIONS, and a letter)

1

An angel
is looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how the angel of history must look. His face is turned towards the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe that keeps piling wreckage on wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into a future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

2

The angel, however, resembles all from which I have had to part: persons
and above all things. In the things I no longer have, he resides. He makes
them transparent, and behind all of them there appears to me the one for
whom they are intended. . . .

3

Just as I, no sooner than I
had seen you, journeyed back with you, from whence I came.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Berlinerin said...

Was reading Heiner Müller's 'Traktor' the other day and found the line, "Die Schutthalde der Literatur im Rücken." It's annoying when other people point out the HM-WB connections, but exciting to stumble upon them yourself.

You probably know this quote already, but the other day I also ran onto WB's line, "Geschichte zerfällt in Bilder, nicht in Geschichten."
!!!

12:57 AM  
Blogger mmf! said...

yes, but i always like reminding - that last quote is always wonderful.

new resolution: reading all of benjamin's letters. after i put myself in mid-process of writing, so i don't get pleasantly stuck doing nothing but reading...

5:45 AM  

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