Mauro Ponzi: Nietzsche’s Nihilism in Walter Benjamin

Palgrave Macmillan, December 2016; 289 pages; ISBN 978-3-319-39266-0; $ 99.00 (Hardcover

This book reconstructs the lines of nihilism that Walter Benjamin took from Friedrich
Nietzsche that define both his theory of art and the avant-garde, and his approach to
political action. It retraces the eccentric route of Benjamin’s philosophical discourse in the
representation of the modern as a place of “permanent catastrophe”, where he attempts
to overcome the Nietzschean nihilism through messianic hope. Using conventions from
literary criticism this book explores the many sources of Benjamin’s thought,
demonstrating that behind the materialism which Benjamin incorporates into his Theses
on the Concept of History is hidden Nietzsche’s nihilism. Mauro Ponzi analyses how
Benjamin’s Arcades Project uses figures such as Baudelaire, Marx, Aragon, Proust and
Blanqui as allegories to explain many aspects of modernity. The author argues that
Benjamin uses Baudelaire as a paradigm to emphasize the dark side of the modern era,
offering us a key to the interpretation of communicative and cultural trends of today.

The Author:
Mauro Ponzi is Full Professor of German Literature at the University of Rome “La Sapienza”,
Italy. He is President of the Associazione Italiana Walter Benjamin, and was a member of
the Directory Board of the Walter Benjamin Internationale Gesellschaft in the years 2000
and 2008.