Carlo Salzani. Constellations of Reading: Walter Benjamin in Figures of Actuality. Bern: Peter Lang, 2009 [Book review]
journal contributionposted on 22.05.2017, 04:32 by David Blencowe
Salzani's monograph was originally his PhD dissertation, which he completed at the Centre for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies at Monash University, Australia. His topic is eminently suited to the field. Salzani actualises four figures that appear in Walter Benjamin's scattered corpus: the flâneur, the detective, the prostitute, and the ragpicker. Salzani's intention is to invoke the spirit of Benjaminian criticism, but not to ape it. He devotes a chapter to each of the figures, and the chapters are divided into two parts; the first reconstructs the figure under consideration from disparate texts by Benjamin, while the second introduces a contemporary, often postmodern portrayal of the same figure. These are the flâneur in Juan Goytisolo's Landscapes after the Battle (1982), the detective in Paul Auster's New York Trilogy (1987), the prostitute in Dacia Maraini's Dialogue between a Prostitute and Her Client (1973), and the ragpicker in Mudrooroo's The Mudrooroo/Müller Project (1993). The diverging renditions are brought into a constellation with one another, a term Salzani draws straight from Benjamin's Trauerspiel book, so that the past is productively juxtaposed with the present, allowing the actuality of the figure to be read.