"Called "the most important critic of his time" by Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin has emerged as one of the most compelling thinkers of our time as well, his work assuming a crucial place in current debates over the interactions of art, culture, and meaning. A "natural and extraordinary talent for letter writing was one of the most captivating facets of his nature," writes Gershom Scholem in his Foreword; and indeed, Benjamin's correspondence reveals the evolution of some of his most powerful ideas. Published here in English for the first time, these letters offer an intimate picture of Benjamin himself and the times in which he lived. Written in a day when letters were an important vehicle for the presentation and development of intellectual matters, Benjamin's correspondence is rich in insight into the circumstances behind his often difficult work." "These letters provide a lively view of Benjamin's life and thought from his days as a student to his melancholy experiences as an exile in Paris. As he defends his changing ideas to admiring and skeptical friends - poets, philosophers, and radicals - we witness the restless self-analysis of a creative mind far in advance of his own time. Writing at length to Scholem and Theodor Adorno, and exchanging letters with Rainer Maria Rilke, Hannah Arendt, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Max Horkheimer, Max Brod, Bertolt Brecht, and Kafka's friend Felix Weltsch, Benjamin elaborates his ideas about metaphor and language. He reflects on literary figures from Kafka to Karl Kraus, the "Jewish Question" and anti-Semitism, Marxism and Zionism. And he expounds his personal attitudes toward such subjects as the role of quotations in criticism, history, and tradition; the meaning of being a "collector"; and French culture and the national character." "In sum, this magnificent collection is an exceptionally rich source of information and an essential key to understanding one of the preeminent figures of modern culture."--Jacket.