In the recent past, there has been a renewed interest in Walter Benjamin and his writings. With the rise of interdisciplinary studies like ‘Cultural Studies‘, the Frankfurt School of thinkers became more popular. This philosopher/literary critic has very peculiar way of thinking which combines social criticism and linguistic analysis with historical nostalgia and communicates an underlying sense of pathos and pessimism.
With the fall of France (during World War II) it became impossible for Benjamin to stay in Paris. Max Horkheimer arranged a travel visa to the US for him. In an attempt to elude the German Gestapo, he decided to travel to the US from neutral Portugal. He carried his life’s work in a briefcase. But Gen. Franco’s fascist government cancelled all transit visas. Fearing he’ll be caught by the Gestapo soon, Benjamin committed suicide by an overdose of morphine tablets. The briefcase and his life’s work was lost. What remained was fragments of his thoughts.
Here’s a documentary film on Benjamin shot in 1992 directed by John Hughes.
One Way Street: Fragments for Walter Benjamin