Getting High with Benjamin and Burroughs

Michael Taussig at Cabinet Magazine:

Drugs were doubtless important to Benjamin, who had first smoked hashish in Berlin in 1927. They confirmed his approach to reality and revolution, to art and politics—an approach shaped and sharpened by his experience of Ibiza. He stayed on the island two months, returning for another six in the summer of 1933. Wretchedly sad, he buried himself in his remote past, writing of his Berlin childhood. Yet he also wrote in lascivious detail of his surroundings, that other “remote past,” or so it seemed to him, this “outpost of Europe” apparently untouched by modernity. Here, he could face head-on his central idea that modernity atrophied the capacity to experience the world and tell stories. This is why the Ibizan poet Vicente Valero has titled his as-yet-untranslated book on Benjamin in Ibiza Experiencia y probreza (Experience and Poverty), after the title of a little-known essay Benjamin wrote under the spell of the island. In the hallucinatory splendor of Ibiza, with his future cast to the winds, Benjamin formulated what I would count as his major texts—on the storyteller and on the mimetic faculty—as well as inventing new forms for the essay as a crossover genre that linked dreams, ethnography, thought-figures, and storytelling.

more here.