Exile and Tradition: Benjamin's Fichu Dream, Scholem's Divine Law, and Kafka's Village

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This article aims to address Walter Benjamin's theory of tradition through the prism of Benjamin's works on Franz Kafka, his ongoing correspondence with Gershom Scholem on Kafka, and a dream he had in the French internment camp, which in my reading relates to the world of Kafka. The article proposes that Franz Kafka served as a point of mediation for Benjamin's changing formulations of tradition. The article then further suggests that Benjamin's work on tradition was structured by a fundamental tension between tradition and life outside tradition, i.e., tradition and life in exile. The article shows how, in the context of Benjamin's correspondence with Scholem, the tension of exile and tradition mirrored a growing personal and theoretical conflict between Scholem in Palestine and Benjamin in Europe. To examine the effects of the conceptual structure of tradition and exile on Benjamin's experience as an émigré, the article first addresses Benjamin's so-called Fichu dream from Nevers. In the suggested reading, the dream portrays Benjamin's vision of decay of tradition that informs his essays and letters on Kafka.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)280-300
Number of pages21
JournalThe Germanic Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 3 Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Benjamin
  • Gretel Adorno
  • Kafka
  • Scholem
  • exile
  • tradition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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