Review of Paul Scheerbart, Lesabéndio: An Asteroid Novel

LesabendioTodd Cronan at nonsite:

For admirers of the work of Walter Benjamin, a translation of Paul Scheerbart’s Lesabéndio: An Asteroid Novel is a major event. Benjamin continually lauded Lesabéndio throughout his life, most decisively in his famous vision of architectural politics, “Experience and Poverty” of 1933. Benjamin’s interest in Scheerbart spans the whole of his career, from Gershom Scholem’s gifting him the book at his wedding to an essay on Scheerbart written near the end of his life. Most significantly, Benjamin intended to write an extensive essay on the book that was meant as a fulfillment of the claims set out in “The Destructive Character” and was to be provocatively entitled “The True Politician.” As the Benjamin literature grows, so does Scheerbart’s reputation. Since 2007 there has been a dramatic rise in the stature of Scheerbart’s writings, including the translation of four books and a range of essays and artistic projects related to his work. At the center of Scheerbart’s current reputation is the identification of technology (glass and steel) and politics. As Josiah McElheny, the artist whose work has revolved around Scheerbart’s example in recent years, recently put it, the “most important aspect of Scheerbart’s thinking” is to see how his “world of fantasy was in fact his attempt to discuss politics by other means.”

Scheerbart’s 1913 sci-fi novel—undoubtedly his most significant literary achievement—provides another in a series of wildly ambitious architecturally-based explorations of utopia.

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