Writing at sometime around 1930 or 1931, Walter Benjamin (p.364) suggested that the voice on the radio is a like a visitor in the home, as such it is “assessed just as quickly and sharply” as any other houseguest. Unfortunately, as far as we are aware, there are no existing audio tapes with which to assess our sympathies for Walter Benjamin’s radio voice. Yet the newly translated collection of the scripts from his various radio broadcasts, gathered in the recently published volume Radio Benjamin, provides us with some insights into what he might have sounded like.
There is an undoubtable audio texture to these printed passages, the grain of his voice and the style of his speech find their way into the prose. But this selection of his radio outputs does more than simply allow us to listen to his imagined voice; these pieces also reveal something of his writing, his working practices and the emergence and formation of some of his key ideas. Far from being an unwelcome and maybe even annoying distraction from his work, as Benjamin himself would have us believe, it would seem, that these broadcasts became an important part of the development of his thinking and writing (as has been briefly suggested by Gilloch, 2002: 170 and Brodersen, 1996: 193).