THE ON-DEMAND PRINTERS/LITERARY AMBASSADORS at Publication Studio are launching a new book this week: Walter Benjamin's autobiographical Berlin Childhood Circa 1900, newly translated by Carl Skoggard. Benjamin, who died in 1940, is perhaps best known for his self-explanatorily titled essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction."
But there's nothing particularly academic about Berlin Childhood; the sweet, slight volume is a series of short chapters, each pegged to a very specific memory: sickness, butterflies, "monkey-theater," telephones. "Not many people who use the telephone realize what catastrophes its arrival once visited on families," Benjamin writes. "The sound it produced between two and four when a school friend sought to take up his conversation with me was an alarm signal endangering not just my parents' midday nap but the century in whose bosom they yielded themselves up to it." And in 100-plus pages of notes at the back of the book, Skoggard expands upon Benjamin's writing, providing both historical detail—"In its earliest years, telephone service in Berlin was available between 8 am and 11 pm each day"—and analysis.
The book includes a foldout, color map of Berlin circa 1900, printed by North Portland print/design collective Container Corps. A dinner and book launch at Publication Studio's SW Ankeny HQ features a curated dinner for 20, with food provided by Caraqueña's Malati Rossington, as well as a chance to chat with Skoggard, who's in town for the launch.