by Tess Crain
Spanning 1929 to 1936, Walter Benjamin’s The Storyteller Essays, out this year from NYRB Classics, circles the question: Why is the art of storytelling dying out? The collection comprises thirteen pieces of diverse form and audience that nonetheless share a thematic lineage. Just as the salient features of grandparents (a curved nose, full lips) may suddenly manifest in the faces of a younger generation, here, concepts and even whole passages from an earlier meditation will resurface, slightly altered or not at all, a few essays later. At the end of the book, short writings by contemporaries (Bloch, Lukács) and inspirations (the playful Hebel, Herodotus) are appended. From an ardent cross-pollination of ideas, traits of these authors, too, crop up in Benjamin’s work.