The Angel of History (Paperback)
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Short Description for The Angel of History Explores how the history we think we know is not a series of events but rather a constellation of countless individual lives. And although every story is unique, each is founded on the same human desire - to be remembered.
- Published: 16 August 2007
- Format: Paperback 352 pages
- ISBN 13: 9781841959832 ISBN 10: 1841959839
- Sales rank: 671,314
Reviews for The Angel of History
- Staff review
The Angel of History
Bruno Arpaia's story of the last months of German literary critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin's life reads like an accomplished novelisation of a film biopic. It is the tale Benjamin's trials and tribulations in trying to protect the manuscript of Passagen-Werk (what we now know as The Arcades Project) whilst fleeing Nazi Germany and trying to cross into Spain over the Pyrenees to the relative safety of the coastal town of Portbou. Intertwined with Benjamin's tale, told in the third person, is the first person narrative of Laureano Mahojo, a Republican militant who fought in the Spanish Civil War. His memories of the war form the background to the focal incident of the novel when, one night, he meets Benjamin, and their lives briefly entwine.
Laureano is speaking directly to someone he addresses irregularly as "my son". Aware that the Benjamin story is what we've come for, Laureano teases us that the detail of their meeting is soon to come, but first he wants to tell his own story, lay down in full the context of that meeting (at one level of abstraction, this does nicely reinforce the fact that the Spanish Civil War was an essential precursor to the coming slaughter of the Second World War). Confidently, he gives a bravura performance telling of his part in the heroism and folly of war.
In parts moving and involving, Arpaia's novel doesn't quite deliver on its promise. The story is fascinating, particular the tragic life of Walter Benjamin, but the tone of the whole piece is a little forced, and one is never drawn in as fully to the action as one should be. Those interested in Benjamin's life get a decent biography of his last months, those interested in a good read get a sometimes thrilling page-turner: but the package doesn't quite convincingly cohere. by Mark Thwaite