The Arcades Project is Benjamin's effort to represent and to critique the bourgeois experience of nineteenth-century history, and, in so doing, to liberate the suppressed "true history" that underlay the ideological mask. Conceived in Paris in 1927 ...
and still in progress when Benjamin fled the Occupation in 1940, The Arcades Project (in German, Das Passagen-Werk) is a monumental ruin, meticulously constructed over the course of thirteen years—"the theater," as Benjamin called it, "of all my struggles and all my ideas." "The Arcades book, whatever our verdict on it—ruin, failure, impossible project—suggests a new way of writing about a civilization, using its rubbish as materials rather than its artworks: history from below rather than from above. And [Benjamin's] call (in the 'Theses') for a history centered on the sufferings of the vanquished, rather than on the achievements of the victors, is prophetic of the way in which history-writing has begun to think of itself in our lifetime." —J. M. Coetzee, New York Review of Books "If Benjamin is here staking his claim to a certain afterlife of philosophizing, his Arcades Project may be taken as establishing the conditions … under which philosophy is still possible." —Stanley Cavell, Artforum "Quite simply, The Arcades Project is one of the twentieth century's greatest efforts of historical comprehension—some would say the greatest … By and large, the edition is a heroic achievement." —T. J. Clark, author of Farewell to an Idea "We will be feasting on Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project for years to come … By any standard, the appearance of this long-awaited work is a towering literary event … The Arcades Project surpasses its legend. It captures the relationship between a writer and a city in a form as richly developed as those presented in the great cosmopolitan novels of Proust, Joyce, Musil, and Isherwood." —Herbert Muschamp, New York Times