Tag Archives: Walter Benjamin

Necrotourism (2)

Inside the Walter Benjamin Memorial (Portbou, Catalonia, Spain; Artist: Dani Karavan)

Inside the Walter Benjamin Memorial (Portbou, Catalonia, Spain; Artist: Dani Karavan, photo Wamito)

Six years ago, I posted a picture of Walter Benjamin’s grave[1], in Portbou, Spain.

One year ago, I stayed for a few days in El Port de la Selva, right next to Portbou, unaware that it was the location of Passages; Homage to Walter Benjamin (above).

Now I want to go back.

See necrotourism or tomb tourism.


Grandville as the sorcerer-priest of commodity fetishism

"Les poisson d’avril" (1844) by Grandville, see April fish

“Les poisson d’avril” by Grandville from Another World

Following yesterday’s post[1] on Un autre monde, I’ve been cleaning up my copy of the full text of that fantastic book and furthering my research on it and Grandville (1803 – 1847) in general.

Kindred spirits

The only person coming close in sheer absurdity to Grandville in the Anglophone world is Edward Lear (1812 – 1888) of whom I recently posted his Walking Fish[2].

Charles Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin on Grandville

To my surprise, Baudelaire doesn’t care for Grandville nor his work, literally saying “there are superficial people who find Grandville entertaining; as for me, he scares me.” (translation mine, see Baudelaire on Grandville).

The philosopher Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) saw in Grandville’s drawings, especially in Another World, a glorification of commodity fetishism: “The enthronement of the commodity … is the secret theme of Grandville’s art” and “if the commodity has become a fetish, Grandville is its sorcerer-priest.” (translation mine)

English translations

There is no public domain translation of the work of Grandville. There is Stanley Appelbaum’s Bizarreries & fantasies of Grandville: 266 illustrations from Un autre monde and Les animaux (Dover Publications, 1974, 1987).

Commodity fetishism?

Commodity fetishism was of great interest to me in the early 2000s, when I discovered the work of Walter Benjamin. I’m happy to have found a drawing that is proof of Grandville’s status as “sorcerer-priest of commodity fetishism.” The plate is called “Les poisson d’avril” (lit: The April Fishes, but actually French for ‘April Fools’ Day’) [3] in the chapter UN VOYAGE D’AVRIL and depicts fish fishing for humans in an enchanted wood. On their hooks are the commodity fetishes such as “diamants, … croix d’honneur, épaulettes, bourses d’or.” (“diamonds … a cross of honor, epaulettes and gold purses.”).

If you want to browse the on-line version with illustrations, here is the link[4].