" a shade"

"In Benjamin, truth seems to stand in the way of truth, or more exactly, truth and its transmission get in each other's way. He explicitly ascribes that dilemma to Kafka, but he could have pointed to Klee's forests of signs pretending to be correspondences. Truth is always too deadly, and transmission deceptively accomodating. Benjamin, as is well known, would have liked to circumvent this dilemma: he dreamed of writing a book made up solely of quotations, as if there were still, within speech, pristine fragments, moments of impersonal directness. No leakage of attention, no distraction, nothing but concentration absorbing the shock of words. The sounds of proper names, he suggests, which we try to make meaningful through etymology, are residues of an original God-given language.

But in a postprophetic age, proclamation and revelation are dangerous simulacra. In one way or another, Benjamin refuses to confine the identity of the literary work to a message or reader-directed intention, one that could reach its destination. A counterpropagandistic reticence always intervenes--a reticence that is not particularly cryptic but rather aesthetic, a shade or veil (Hülle; Verhülltes) which still allows us to recognize heart or body in hiding, but asks us to forgo imagining that from which we are excluded."

{Geoffrey Hartman, "Walter Benjamin in Hope," 1997, A Critic's Journey: Literary Reflections, 1958-1998}

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