From The Guardian:
Walter Benjamin’s Archive: Images, Texts, Signs
Whereas Proust’s evocation of the blissful past was as easy as eating a cake, Benjamin likened himself to ‘a man digging’. Proust’s enchanted reveries typically happened in a cafe or a park. Benjamin, however, was working in a graveyard and his ‘spade probing in the dark loam’ was likely to encounter a cadaver. Unlike Proust, he did not have the luxury of completing his mnemonic research. He had to quit Paris after the fall of France. His archive, patchily pieced together in this book, which derives from an exhibition in Berlin, was dispersed among friends and in part destroyed.
He died in the Pyrenees in 1940, probably killing himself with an overdose of morphine: he had despaired of being allowed to cross into Spain and then into neutral Portugal, from where he could have sailed to safety in America. He was only 48. The manuscripts in the briefcase Benjamin was carrying vanished. All that mattered to the authorities was his meagre bankroll, used to settle his hotel bill and the cost of his funeral. He might have been sourly or sadly amused by the fate of his treasured meditation ‘On the Concept of History’, which was, no doubt, binned when the room occupied by this dead transient was cleaned out.