Ah yes, but Eiland and Jennings have an answer to my objections. We must not enclose a writer, particularly one whose writings amount to a "mobile and contradictory whole" in one mere narrative; better to allow readers to project their own Benjamins on to the material. Near the end, to support this point, they quote what he wrote about great writers in One-Way Street : "For only the more feeble and distracted take an inimitable pleasure in closure, feeling that their lives have thereby been given back to them." I admit to being feeble and distracted, but not that closure is the same as presenting a life.
Benjamin’s death has been hidden from us. The circumstances surrounding it may never be fully revealed. Yet it’s a credit to his abilities as a storyteller that we can picture him so vividly at different moments in his life. Whether he’s collecting butterflies in the summer of his Berlin Childhood , tracing the spine of Balzac’s La Peau de Chagrin as he unpacks his library, or wandering the streets of Paris, the images of his world linger, even as they cut, with the speed of montage, into passages of brilliant criticism. Add to this the image of a son, newly home, reading aloud a strange story in honor of his mother’s birth.