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Agamben's Philosophical Lineage$
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Adam Kotsko and Carlo Salzani

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474423632

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474423632.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 31 March 2020

Walter Benjamin

Walter Benjamin

Chapter:
(p.27) 2 Walter Benjamin
Source:
Agamben's Philosophical Lineage
Author(s):

Carlo Salzani

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474423632.003.0003

In a 1985 interview with Adriano Sofri, Agamben says of his encounter with Benjamin: I read him for the first time in the 1960s, in the Italian translation of the Angelus Novus edited by Renato Solmi. He immediately made the strongest impression on me: for no other author have I felt such an unsettling affinity. To me happened what Benjamin narrates about his own encounter with Aragon’s Paysan de Paris: that after a very short while he had to close the book because it made his heart thump. For Agamben, this encounter with Benjamin proved to be ‘decisive’2 and would mark his entire career, as much as meeting Heidegger in person at the end of the 1960s. Of these two first philosophical ‘masters’ he would often say, quite enigmatically, that for him the two philosophers worked ‘each one as antidote for the other’,3 or more precisely: ‘Every great work contains a shadowy and poisonous part, against which it does not provide the antidote. Benjamin has been for me this antidote, which helped me to survive Heidegger.’4 The nature of Heidegger’s poison and of Benjamin’s antidote is not very clear; what is clear, however, is that this early encounter with Benjamin shaped Agamben’s own encounter with philosophy itself, and would exert an enduring influence (perhaps ‘the single most important influence’)5 on his entire oeuvre.

Keywords:   Walter Benjamin, History, Language, Violence, Sacredness, law

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