Well Known, Perhaps, but New to Me

From "The Marvels of Walter Benjamin," by J.M. Coetzee in the 11 January issue of The New York Review of Books (Volume XLVIII, Number 1, pages 28-33):

The story is by now so well know that it barely needs to be retold. The setting is the Franco-Spanish border, the time is 1940. Walter Benjamin, fleeing occupied France, presents himself to the wife of a certain Fittko he has met in an internment camp. He understands, he says, that Frau Fittko will be able to guide him and his companions across the Pyrenees to neutral Spain. Frau Fittko takes him along on a trip to scout out the best routes; he brings along a heavy briefcase. Is the briefcase really necessary, she asks? It contains a manuscript, he replies. "I cannot risk losing it. It...must be saved. It is more important than I am."

The next day they cross the mountains, Benjamin pausing every few minutes because of a weak heart. At the border they are halted. Their papers are not in order, say the Spanish police; they must return to France. In despair, Benjamin takes an overdose of morphine. The police make an inventory of the deceased's belongings. The inventory shows no record of a manuscript.