Siegfried Kracauer was one of the most important German thinkers of the twentieth century. His writings on Weimar culture, mass society, photography and film were groundbreaking and they anticipated many of the themes later developed members of the Frankfurt School and other cultural theorists.
No less remarkable were the circumstances under which he made these contributions. After his early years as a journalist in Germany, the rise of the Nazis forced Kracauer into exile - first in Paris and then, after a protracted flight via Marseilles and Lisbon, to the United States. The existential challenges, personal losses and unrelenting hardship Kracauer faced during these years of exile formed the backdrop against which he offered his acute observations of modern life.
Joerg Spater provides the first comprehensive biography of this extraordinary man. Based on extensive archival research, Spater's biography expertly traces the key influences on Kracauer's intellectual development and presents his most important works and ideas with great clarity. At the same time, Spater ably documents the intensity of Kracauer's personal relationships, the trauma of his flight and exile, and his embrace of his new homeland, where, finally, the 'groundlessness' of refugee existence gave way to a more stable life and, with it, some of the intellectually most fruitful years of Kracauer's career.
The result is a vivid portrait of a man driven both by an urge to capture reality - to attend to the things that are 'overlooked or misjudged', that still 'lack a name', as he put it - and by a need to find his place in a hostile, threatening world.
Joerg Spater is Professor of Modern History at the University of Freiburg.
Table of Contents
1. Siegfried Kracauer - A Life
2. Early Things: Before 1918
3. Revolution, the Frankfurter Zeitung and Cultural Criticism around 1920
4. Friendship (Part 1): The Jewish Renaissance in Frankfurt
5. Friendship (Part 2): The One Who Waits
6. The Crisis of the Sciences, Sociology and the Sphere Theory
7. Friendship (Part Three): Passion and the Path towards the Profane
8. The Rebirth of Marxism in Philosophy
9. Kracauer Goes to the Movies:
A Medium for the Masses and A Medium for Modernity
10. At the Feuilleton of the Frankfurter Zeitung
11. Inflation and Journeys into Porosity
12. Transitional Years: Economic Upturn, Revolt, Enlightenment
13. The Primacy of the Optical: Architecture, Images of Space, Films
14. Ginster, Georg and the Salaried Masses
15. The Idea as Bearer of the Group: The Philosophical Quartet
16. Berlin circa 1930: In the Midst of the Political Melee
17. The Trial
18. Europe on the Move: Refugees in France
19. The Liquidation of German Matters
20. Two Views on the Second Empire: Offenbach and the Arcades
21. The Disintegration of the Group
22. Songs of Woe from Frankfurt
23. La Vie Parisienne
24. The 'Institute for Social Falsification'
25. Vanishing Point: America
26. Fleeing from France, a Last Minute Exit to Lisbon
27. Arrival in New York
28. Define Your Enemy: What is National Socialism?
29. Know Your Enemy: Psychological Warfare
30. Fear Your Enemy: Deportation and Killing of the Jews
31. Fuck Your Enemy: From Hitler to Caligari
32. Cultural Critic, Social Scientist, Supplicant
33. The Aesthetics of Film as Cultural Studies
34. Two Boxes from Paris
35. Working as a Consultant in the Social Sciences and Humanities
36. Mail from Germany, Letters from the Past, Travels in Europe
37. The Practice of Film Theory and the Theory of Film
38. Talks with Teddie and Old Friends
39. Time for the Things before the Last
40. After Kracauer's Death
An impressive biography: accurate, fluent, displaying thorough knowledge and independent judgement, this is the first book to do justice to Kracauer.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Sp?ter avoids simple description and banal interpretations and surprises the reader with careful, considered judgements, thus demonstrating what a biographer should fundamentally be: a courageous historian.
Thomas Meyer, S?ddeutsche Zeitung