Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus [see original German]


“My wing is ready for flight

I would gladly turn back

but to stop living time — I would have little luck.”

— Gerhard Scholem, Gruß vom Angelus


A Klee painting 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 hangs open,

his wings are spread.

This is how the angel of history must look.

His face is turned toward the past.

Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one catastrophe,

which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage

hurling it before 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

the angel can no longer close them.

This 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, “Theses on the Philosophy of History” (1940).

Paul Klee, Angelus Novus

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