24 Jan 2013

Short essay by Walter Benjamin about book collecting: the one that begins, “I am unpacking my library. Yes, I am.”

Walter Benjamin’s library card, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, 1940. (via pieto)

In a brief essay, first published in Die Literarische Welt (The Literary World), 1931, the German philosopher and literary critic Walter Benjamin ruminates on the nature of his attachment to the world of objects.

Unpacking My Library is whimsical and sincere. Benjamin offers a few seductive profundities — “the acquisition of an old book is its rebirth” and “the collector’s passion borders on the chaos of memories” — while reasoning that collecting is, after all, a creative exercise. An enjoyable read.

Read ‘Unpacking My Library: A Talk about Book Collecting’ and other essays by Walter Benjamin in Illuminations: Essays and Reflections (translations by Harry Zohn). The original German essay (‘Ich packe meine Bibliothek aus’, Gesammelte Schriften, IV, 388–396) is free to read online (via Internet Archive).