The recent translation of Franz Hessel’s Walking in Berlin provides another occasion for walking to return as a topic-a topic that has acquired a new significance in an era in which terms such as ‘lockdown’ have become a sort of commonplace. Originally published in 1929, it inspired, in part, Walter Benjamin’s development of his own conception of the ‘flaneur’. In addition, Hessel’s work provided a decisive element of the thinking that prompted Benjamin’s The Arcades Project. In Benjamin’s review of Hessel, he wrote that what the city discloses is ‘the limitless theatre of flanerie’. The link between the city and theatricality-thus the city as an object viewed by a subject, the subject-spectator-is of great importance and that link’s return will prove decisive for understanding the walking subject today.
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