Better known for his writings on photography and aesthetic theory - in particular, how technologies of reproduction influence the way we experience art - Walter Benjamin is less known for his contributions to radio, both as producer and essayist. Radio Benjamin is the first book in English entirely dedicated to Benjamin’s radio works: plays, programs for children, lectures and readings, as well as works that were prepared but not broadcast.
Most of the initial plays for children are about Berlin, in one way or another, with different themes, such as history, books, toys and language, surfacing in connection. Unfortunately, in my opinion, they are only interesting as historical curiosities. The book gets better when Benjamin muses about remediation on the radio. The essay Reflections on Radio was absorbing and insightful. However, the plays at the end are a bit drawn-out and, to be honest, much less interesting than their critical review in the introduction.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this is a must read for any Benjamin aficionado, but I’m not sure how interesting these essays would be for everyone else. Benjamin himself referred to these works as “lesser”, more relevant for their commercial value than anything else. I would say that they have become relevant for their historical value and as context to the rest of Benjamin’s work. So if you have never read it, I would advise you to start somewhere else.
Note: I got this book for review purposes through NetGalley.