David Beer at berfrois:
Walter Benjamin is full of surprises. This is perhaps why his work seems to have endured so well. He has a knack for carving out unexpected angles on familiar issues. In this collection the surprise is not so much in themes that it covers, many of which are typical of Benjamin’s other work, rather the surprise is in Benjamin’s exploration of different styles. It is a book of experimentation that finds Benjamin in the mode of the storyteller.
The volume gathers together Benjamin’s fiction along with some reviews linking to those fictional themes. Here Benjamin is either writing fiction or writing about fiction. These pieces, like the earlier collection of Benjamin’s radio broadcasts, are a testament to his lifestyle. They show a freelancer at work, trying to eke out a living as a writer. These are the remnants of a peripatetic life of the mind, deployed wherever necessary to make ends meet and to enable his other writings to continue. It was a struggle for Benjamin. But it seems he always liked to produce interesting and creative work, even when it was a necessity of living.
Benjamin probably didn’t mind indulging in some fiction writing or in reviewing fictional works. He always had a soft spot for fiction, particularly detective novels – which he even considered writing himself. This affection is most notable in his short review piece ‘Detective Novels, on Tour’, where he describes the enchantment of finding a detective novel in a station bookstore before a journey.