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Benjamin's Crossing  By  cover art

Benjamin's Crossing

By: Jay Parini
Narrated by: Mark Bramhall,Edoardo Ballerini,Natasha Soudek,Kathleen Gati,Senn Annis
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Publisher's summary

The acclaimed and now-classic biographical novel of Walter Benjamin's last days - adapted into screenplay by Jay Parini.

It is 1940. For the past decade, Walter Benjamin - the German-Jewish critic and philosopher - has been writing his masterpiece in a library in Paris, a city he loves. Now Nazi tanks have overrun the suburbs, and Benjamin is forced to flee. With a battered briefcase that contains his precious manuscript of a thousand handwritten pages, he sets off for the border and is led by chance to a young anti-Nazi who is taking Jews and other refugees over the Pyrenees into Spain, where they may (with luck) make their way to freedom in Portugal or South America. 

Beloved biographical novelist Jay Parini's thrilling tale of escape is beautifully interwoven with vignettes of Benjamin's complex, cosmopolitan past: his privileged childhood in Berlin, his years with the German Youth Movement, his university days. His close friendship with Gershom Scholem, the eminent scholar of Jewish mysticism, and many other well-known artists and intellectuals who were part of Benjamin's intimate circle between the two world wars. Part tragedy, part dark comedy, this sharply realized historical novel tells one of the great and most moving peripheral stories of the Holocaust.

©1996 Jay Parini (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

“A piercing, magnificent novel.” (Amos Oz)

"Painstakingly researched and dramatically recounted.... [Benjamin’s Crossing] has something important to tell us.” (The New York Times Book Review)

"Jay Parini has written an exciting ‘adventure story,’ part Chaplin, part Kafka, and wholly emblematic of our dark age.” (Gore Vidal) 

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A novel for our time

This novel captures the time leading up to the apocalypse, or the coup de grace, for the European civilization that we love and still today try to emulate. Benjamin abhorred the mechanization and mass marketing of art, something that we take for granted today --albeit with subconscious unease. Mr Parini captures this revulsion in the awkward and stunted interactions the hero has with everyone whom he loves or who tries to love him. Like all good novels, this one makes the reader love the hero despite his profound flaws of character. In that way the reader gets a glimmer of what happened to Europe's best minds and why they were unable to stop the madness and cruelty that has scarred their continent and global culture forever. Excellent reading, totally in character, with a rare appreciation for accent and tone. The novel makes one hunger to know more about its characters, each one of whom would merit a novel on his or her own.

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