The Angel of History

Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus, now in the Israel Museum.

A Klee drawing named “Angelus Novus” shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe that keeps piling ruin upon ruin and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

Walter Benjamin, Ninth Thesis on the Philosophy of History

(Also known from Laurie Anderson’s song “The Dream Before”.)


3 thoughts on “The Angel of History

  1. Faye

    Profoundly thought provoking. The song and the haunting music expresses so much of the pain and complexity of our present world. Thank you for them both.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. solsdottir Post author

      Glad you liked it. A little outside what I normally post, but it’s such a great idea.


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