In a letter of 1932 to Gershom Scholem, Benjamin outlines his literary ambitions; he plans four major books, one of which would have been on hashish. The others were to include the Passagenwerk, his essays on literature, and his letters. It could be said that we now have those three books, if only in the form of sprawling and gigantic ruins. The Passagenwerk has been the object of many inspired and yet hopeless projects of reconstruction; the literary essays are available in German and other languages; and letters from throughout his life have been collected and published. All can be supplemented by texts like the Moscow Diary, and the complexities of the European city are clearly implicated in Benjamin's work on both Paris and hashish. The city is the site of intoxication, whether provoked by commodities, a drug, or the erratic wanderings of the flâneur. It is in the city that we find the fix that we need.

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Copyright © 2003 SUNY Press. This book chapter first appeared in High Culture: Reflections on Addiction and Modernity.

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