Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Walter Benjamin. The know-how of the author in thirteen theses

I was away for a week writing, out in the bundus, and Benjamin was helping.

I. Whoever intends to write a considerable work, should enjoy themselves and allow themselves, after having finished their daily work, whatever does not render its continuation impossible.

II. Talk about what you have achieved, if you want to, but do not read [to others] while you are still working on it. The satisfaction that you thereby acquire slows down your speed. If you follow this commandment, your growing wish to communicate will eventually become the engine of accomplishment.

III. In your work setting, try to avoid the mediocrity of your everyday life. Semi-quietness, surrounded by dim noises engenders disrespect. However, the accompaniment of an etude or murmuring voices may become as important for your work as the silence of the night. In case it will fine tune your inner ear, it will turn into a testing ground of a diction that is so thorough that even eccentric noises will be drown out.

IV. Avoid random tools of the trade. Pedantic insistence on certain paper, pens, and ink is useful. Not luxury, but the abundance of these utensils is absolutely required.

V. Do not let pass any thought unnoticed [incognito] and be as serious in keeping track of them as the immigration police is of foreigners.

VI. Guard your pen against a spontaneous idea and it will, with the strength of a magnet, attract even more ideas. The more circumspect you treat an idea, the more mature it will turn out to be. Speech conquers thought but writing is in charge [control] of it.

VII. Never stop writing because you lack inspiration. It is a commandment of literary honor to stop only for keeping an appointment (a lunch or dinner appointment or a meeting) or if your work has been finished.

VIII. The absence of inspiration shall be filled with copying what you have achieved. Through it, your intuition will awaken.

IX. Nulla dies sine linea (Not one day without [writing] a line) – but certainly weeks.

X. Never consider a work as accomplished if you have not even sat over it from evening to morning.

XI. The final lines of a work do not write in you usual work space. You would not find the courage to finish in it.

XII. The steps of writing: thought – style – written word. It is the meaning of the proper copy that that it focuses the attention on the calligraphy. Thought kills inspiration, style attaches thought, the written word remunerates style.

XIII. The opus is the death mask of the concept.

From: One Way Street. (Einbahnstrasse). Bibliothek Suhrkamp, 1991, p. 46 – 49. Translated by Thomas M.Blaser

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