“We approach the world, futilely, as collectors. Travel demonstrates as much as any personal intimacy that we cannot elicit perfect, unmoving loyalty. Writing anything down is basically sentimental, an act of preservation, an attempt to hold a moment or image still. Travel writing wants to defeat the impermanence of being in any one place. In keeping records of the intangible—people or places or experiences –we attempt to forget that the things we love are not, in fact, things, and therefore can’t be kept, preserved, or possessed.
Benjamin writes in Unpacking my Library, about the relationship between a collector and the things he or she collects, figuring that relationship as an extreme intimacy. This figuration extends into much of his other writing. His massive Arcades Project is in part an accounting that turns Paris into a collection, numbered, categorized, recorded and kept permanent. The same intimacy between a collector and his things characterizes Benjamin’s relationship to the places he visits and then describes.”