Wednesday, March 4, 2009

To Lose Oneself: The Art of Straying

Not to find one's way in a city may well be uninteresting and banal. It requires ignorance--nothing more. But to lose oneself in a city--as one loses oneself in a forest--that calls for quite a schooling. Then, signboards and street names, passers-by, roofs, kiosks, or bars must speak to the wanderer like a cracking twig under his feet in the forest, like the startling call of a bittern in the distance, like teh sudden stillness of a clearing with a lily standing erect at the center. Paris taught me this art of straying; it fulfilled a dream that had shown its first traces in the labyrinths on the blotting pages of my school exercise books. (Walter Benjamin, "A Berlin Chronicle" in Reflections; trans. Edmund Jephcott)

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