Walter Benjamin’s ‘The Task of the Translator’ has appeared (often in translation) in several anthologies, and is on many university reading lists for translation modules. However, though it does contain Benjamin’s most complete statement of his views on translation, it is hard to understand in isolation. While certain pronouncements – that texts possess a quality of ‘translatability’, for example – are well-known, and relatively straightforward, others can appear merely idiosyncratic: for example, the statement that translation comes into its own when languages reach the ‘messianic end of their history’. Indeed, one of Benjamin’s best-known translators, Harry Zohn, simply left out this phrase. But the danger of taking from the essay only those ideas that are easy to understand is that its extraordinary density is thereby lost, and it can seem to be saying little of importance. If, on the other hand, we see this essay as a statement made at a particular point in Benjamin’s intellectual development and read it in relation to his other works, especially those on language, philosophy and history, we not only see that there is no redundancy in the essay, but we also find it illuminated by his thoughts on those other topics. In this chapter I hope, therefore, to set his pronouncements on the translator’s task in the context of his thinking more generally, and in the context of views that came before and views that came after. In this way we can better assess the relevance of Benjamin’s thoughts on translation for both translation theory and translation practice.