This fully-annotated documentary novel explores the life and thought of Walter Benjamin, imaginatively examining its implications in the political context of a post-War London estate.
A startling critical-creative examination of one of the 20th Century's leading thinkers, The Late Walter Benjamin is a documentary novel that juxtaposes the life and death of Walter Benjamin with the days, hours and minutes of a working-class council estate on the edge of London in post-war Austerity England. The novel centres on one particular tenant who claims to be Walter Benjamin, and only ever uses words written by Benjamin, apparently oblivious that the real Benjamin committed suicide 20 years earlier whilst fleeing the Nazis. Initially set in the sixties, the text slips back to the early years of the estate and to Benjamin's last days, as he moves across Europe seeking ever-more desperately to escape the Third Reich. Through this fictional narrative, John Schad explores not only the emergence of Benjamin's thinking from a politicised Jewish theology forced to confront the rise of Nazism but also the implications of his utopian Marxism, forged in exile, for the very different context of a displaced working class community in post-war Britain.
John Schad is Professor of Modern Literature at the University of Lancaster.