|The son of an art dealer, Walter Benjamin grew up in Berlin, in a wealthy, assimilated Jewish family. After school, where he was active in the student association and wrote for its magazine, he studied philosophy and literature at several German universities. Benjamin sought an academic career, but his doctoral thesis, "The Origin of German Tragic Drama" (pub. 1928), was rejected by the University of Frankfurt. Instead, he contributed to various newspapers, wrote essays, and translated Proust and other writers. In the 1920s, he visited Russia and came close to becoming a Communist. In 1933 he left Germany for Paris, a city whose culture and literature he loved. He took half of his treasured library with him, and continued to write. Following the fall of France to Germany, Benjamin went on to Spain, hoping to make it to the United States. When the police informed Benjamin and friends that they would be turned over to the Gestapo, Benjamin committed suicide. Walter Benjamin's reputation as a critic and thinker has grown since his death. His writings on a wide variety of topics--Marxist critiques of art and aesthetics, literary criticism of Baudelaire, Goethe, and others--draw from history, the Talmud, and society at large. His unique contribution to literature and the intellectual world has only become more pronounced due to the publication of multiple Benjamin biographies, his correspondence, and other commentary.