Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin (BEN-ya-mean)
The Aesthete, The Auratist, The Brainiac of Berlin, The Frankfurter, Mr. Mystic
I was born in Berlin and was one of those kids who had it pretty good money-wise—Dad was a banker and made shrewd investments. Unfortunately, I was the delicate type: always coughing, laying on the fainting couch, and being generally sick. I had a brother and a sister, but I was the oldest and, arguably, the smartest and most fragile.
This may seem old-fashioned, but my occupation is actually "theorist," which is to say I conceptualize huge ideas and write earth-shattering essays.
I attended a string of schools, including a boarding school in Haubinda, Thuringia (get a map, lazy), but my education got hot and heavy at the Humboldt University in Berlin, where I started to get really into philosophy. I later went on to school in Munich, where I fell under the influence of intellectual luminaries such as Rainer Maria Rilke and Gershom Scholem. At the University of Bern, Switzerland, I earned my PhD with an illuminating piece of scholarship entitled The Concept of Art Criticism in German Romanticism.
My political and theological views are a bit of a mash-up. I started out by getting into political Zionism as a young'un. I really felt like political action was essential to being a Jewish person and I was into the idea of acquiring a charter for sovereign Jewish territory in Palestine.
My parents were assimilated Jews, so I pretty much picked it up from there. My friendship with the Kabbalistic scholar Gershom Scholem stimulated my interest in Zionism, but I'm mostly about the cool occult ideas and Messianism, not the Hebrew-speaking, temple-going religiousness.
Here's something for you: I even see the act of translation as spiritual. Want to know more? Check out my essay "The Task of the Translator."
The Frankfurt School