Gershom Scholem is celebrated as the twentieth century’s most profound student of the Jewish mystical tradition; Walter Benjamin, as a master thinker whose extraordinary essays mix the revolutionary, the revelatory, and the esoteric. Scholem was a precocious teenager when he met Benjamin, who became his close friend and intellectual mentor. His account of that relationship—which was to remain crucial for both men—is both a celebration of his friend’s spellbinding genius and a lament for the personal and intellectual self-destructiveness that culminated in Benjamin’s suicide in 1940.
At once prickly and heartbroken, argumentative and loving, Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship is an absorbing memoir with the complication of character and motive of a novel. As Scholem revisits the passionate engagements over Marxism and Kabbala, Europe and Palestine that he shared with Benjamin, it is as if he sought to summon up his lost friend’s spirit again, to have the last word in the argument that might have saved his life.
The force of this remarkable memoir derives as much from the insights it offers into the mind and beliefs of the writer as into those of its subject.
— Publishers Weekly
Walter Benjamin [was] perhaps the most subtle, intuitive, and creative critic of the age….Since Scholem is himself a great scholar and thinker, since the intellectual comradeship between the two was so intense for a long time, the commingling of their thoughts comes to be even more revealing than the life-facts themselves….An invaluable document about not merely one but two of the century’s most profound minds.
— Kirkus Reviews