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«Das missverstehen Verstellte mir die Welt...» sui nomi fraintesi in Berliner kindheit um neunzehnhundert di Walter Benjamin

Francesca Boarini


This study examines proper names (and, in particular, toponyms) in Walter Benjamin’s Berliner Kindheit um Neunzehnhundert. In this autobiographical essay the German philosopher recollects his childhood, and reflects on the places and objects that were so typical of Berlin’s West End at the turn of the nineteenth century. By means of an analysis of how, in this «book on remembrance», proper names provide form and focus for the act of reminiscence and hence for the narration itself, my paper shows how the recollective power of names is rooted in and brought about by misunderstanding, which leads the child protagonist to alter and disguise conventional onomastic forms so as to assimilate them into the familiar words and objects that surround him. Investigation of the linguistic forms and narrative function of these disguised names shows how, far from being mere mistakes, they effectively become a process of renaming that goes beyond the semantic opacity of names. This process provides grounds and justification for these names: it creates (or simply gives expression to) an intrinsic semantic relationship between name and referent, language and reality.

Parole chiave

proper names; reminiscence; misunderstanding; disguised names; renomination.

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