Sunday, June 20

Theodor W. Adorno and Walter Benjamin: Dear Walter, dear Teddie | Babelia

Adorno a Benjamin

New York, 7/16/1940

My dear Walter:

Today is your birthday and I want to send you my warmest congratulations. I do not need to express my good wishes to you and to ourselves. Rest assured that we will do everything in our power to make those wishes come true.

Max has gone on a trip to gather information about academic conditions in the west. Since he will not be in New York for several months, he asked me to take care of the problems that concern him. We are doing everything possible to expedite your immigration to this country. You are likely to be contacted directly by the consulate in Marseille. I am not sure what type of visa the United States consulate can offer you, since there are three possible options: a quota visa, because you have applied for it, a visa not quota, for being a member of our Institute for many years, or even a tourist visa. We advise you to accept the visa they offer you first, no matter which one it is.

Adorno: “I am glad for every word I receive from you, but I understand very well that you are not in the mood for long letters”

Anyway, we are not just trying to bring it to the United States, but we are also trying other ways. One of them is the attempt to “lend” it to you as a visiting professor at the University of Havana. But this plan is too far from being realized to be considered immediately possible. Saint’s plan [sic] Domingo does not appear to be viable at this time. Of course, it will always be good to be closely linked to Madame Favez, who is always very cooperative and extremely judicious when judging the situation.

I will be staying here for the summer, mainly in order to be able to take care of your interests. Gretel, who is also staying here, is very worried and in very poor health, but sends her love and best wishes for her birthday. Before leaving, Max asked me again to convey the certainty of his friendship and his unalterable solidarity.

We are in permanent contact with him for the problems that concern him. Fritz is here and sends you his warmest regards.

I am glad for every word I receive from you, but I certainly understand very well that you are not in the mood for long letters.

PS It would be very important for us to have your curriculum vitae with a list of your publications. That is why I ask you to send us both things as soon as possible.

Always yours,


Benjamin a Adorno

Lourdes, 2/8/1940

My dear Teddie:

There are several reasons why your letter of July 15 gave me great joy. In the first place, by kindly remembering the day; later, the understanding that emerges from his words. No, it’s really not easy for me to write a letter. I spoke to Felizitas about the complete uncertainty in which I find myself about my writing. (For the papers dedicated to the “Passages” one has to fear a little less, in relative terms, than for the others). But, as you know, I have no advantage over my writing. From one day to the next, the measures that fell on me in September can be repeated, but under a very different sign. In recent months I have seen a series of individuals no longer sink, leaving bourgeois life behind, but rush from one day to the next, so every security measure gives me, in addition to a problematic external support, an internal support that is less so. In this sense, I have received with genuine gratitude the document “to those he belongs”. I could imagine that the heading, which pleasantly surprised me, supports the possible longer-term effect of the writing.

Benjamin: “My fear is that the time we have at our disposal is much more limited than we expected”

The complete uncertainty about what will happen the next day, the next hour, has dominated my existence for many weeks. I am condemned to read every newspaper (here it appears on a single page) as a notification addressed to me and to hear in every radio broadcast the voice of the bearer of bad news. My eagerness to get to Marseille to advocate there for my cause at the consulate was in vain. The foreigner has not been able to get a transfer on his own for a long time. So I depend on what you can achieve from the outside. What gave me hope was that he announced a piece of news from the consulate in Marseille. A letter from that consulate would likely yield permission to go to Marseille. (Indeed, I did not quite convince myself to contact the consulates of the occupied territory. A letter that I had sent even before the occupation from here to Bordeaux was answered in a kind but insubstantial way: the files in question were still in Paris).

I take note of your dealings with Havana, of your efforts for San [sic] Sunday. I am firmly persuaded that you try everything that can be undertaken or, as Felizitas says, “more than you can”. My fear is that the time we have at our disposal is much more limited than we expected. And despite the fact that fourteen days ago I did not think of such a possibility, new information made me make the decision to ask Mme. Favez, through Carl Burckhardt, did everything possible to secure for me a temporary stay in Switzerland. I know that from the beginning there are many things that speak against this exit: but there is a powerful argument that speaks in favor: time. If only it were possible to carry out that solution! I wrote to Burckhardt.

I hope I have so far given you the impression of being calm even in difficult times. Don’t think that has changed. But I cannot turn a deaf ear to the dangerous nature of the situation. I am afraid that those who are going to be saved one day will be cases in the numbers.

You will receive via Geneva – where you will surely also direct these lines – my curriculum vitae. The bibliography is included, because here I am missing every resource that would make it possible for me to develop it in detail. (All in all, it covers about 450 numbers.) If, however, a bibliography in the strict sense is indispensable, you can resort to that of the programmatic writing of the Institute; at this moment I could not provide you with a better one.

Benjamin, before he died: “I don’t have enough time to write all the letters that I would have liked to write”

I am very reassured that you are still in New York, “locatable”, let’s say, and in the truest sense, attentive. In Boston, 384 Commonwealth Avenue lives Mr. Merril Moore. Mrs. Bryher, the editor of Life and Letters Today He referred to me several times, so it is likely that he has an idea of ​​the situation and a willingness to help change it. I think it might be helpful if you got in touch with him.

For the rest, please be assured that I have learned to re-value very much Ms Favez’s interest in my cause and her trustworthiness.

It distresses me that Felizitas’s health is still so unstable and that this time she won’t even be given a vacation break. Please convey my best wishes.

Please sincerely thank Mr. Pollock for me and send him my best regards.

Receive all the love from your

Walter benjamin

August 2, 1940


8 rue Notre Dame

PS Excuse me for the meticulously completed signature; it is a requirement.

Benjamin a Henny Gurland [¿y a Adorno?]

Port Bou, 9/25/1940

[en francés]

In a dead end situation, I have no choice but to end it. My life is going to end in a small town in the Pyrenees where nobody knows me.

Please convey to my friend Adorno that I have him in my thoughts and explain the situation in which I find myself. I no longer have enough time to write all the letters that I would have liked to write.

Correspondence (1928 – 1940)

Theodor W. Adorno and Walter Benjamin.
Translation: Laura S. Carugati and Martina Fernández Polcuch.
Eterna Cadencia, 2021. 368 pages. 21.90 euros.

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