Synopses & Reviews
Part of James Atlas’s Icons series, a biography of one of the leading intellectuals in postwar America, and the author of the controversial Eichmann in Jerusalem.
Hannah Arendt was an eminent philosopher, a distinguished professor, and a famous journalist. When she wrote about the trial of the Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann she not only recorded history but changed it. Her major works, The Origin of Totalitarianism and The Human Condition, belong among the classics of Western thought. When she died in 1975 at the age of 69, she was revered as one of the major intellectual figures of her day.
In Anne Heller’s skilled telling, she was also an outsized personality, fearless and indifferent to the opinions of others. As a student in Germany, she had a controversial affair with her professor, the philosopher Martin Heidegger, a supporter of the Nazi party. Barred from teaching because she was Jewish, she fled to France and, later, to New York. She made her way in the world of émigré Jews with force; Eichmann in Jerusalem, first published in The New Yorker, invoked a phrase — “the banality of evil” — that would forever alter how we view the Holocaust. Heller, the biographer of Ayn Rand, is accustomed to dealing with strong women; her portrait of Arendt engages both her private life — the philosopher Karl Jaspers was one of her professors, Mary McCarthy was her closest friend — and her role as a public intellectual in postwar New York. One of her most important books was a collection of biographical essays called Men in Dark Times; Arendt, too, lived through dark times, but managed to bring light.
"A competent if pedestrian account of the relationship between two major figures of 20th-century philosophy that focuses on the influence of their friendship upon Arendt's intellectual development. Tracing their bond from when the young Arendt was Heidegger's student and subsequently his lover, Maier-Katkin, professor of criminology at Florida State University, offers an intellectual biography of the Jewish political philosopher whose preoccupations included pluralism, injustice, and the nature of evil, against the background of her lifelong connection with a thinker whose own history was marred by involvement with Nazism. The author is admirably evenhanded in his assessment of this dimension of Heidegger's life, but his sympathy clearly lies with Arendt, whose writings, in particular her prescient essays on Israel and her account of the Adolf Eichmann trial, he passionately defends. Overall, the book offers little insight into either of its subjects, relying too much on previous biographies and synopses of Arendt's major writings. The author's guiding insight, that Arendt's friendship with Heidegger exemplifies her notions of thoughtfulness and forgiveness, is compelling but regrettably underdeveloped. But at its best the book offers a fascinating snapshot of the divergent ways two towering intellects responded to the 20th century's darkest moments." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Since 1982, when published Elizabeth Young-Bruehl published Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World
, it has been widely known that Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger had an affair. He was Germany's leading philosopher of existentialism; she was a German Jew and one of his most promising students at the University of Marburg during the 1920s. But the winds of history blew their lives in different directions. When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, Arendt fled to France, then the United States. Heidegger joined the Nazi Party and became the rector of Freiburg University, where he dismissed Jewish faculty. Though he resigned after one year, he remained a member of the Nazi Party and supporter of National Socialism." Michelle Sieff, The Wilson Quarterly
(Read the entire Wilson Quarterly review
"Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) and Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) were considered two of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century. Heidegger, author of Being and Time
(1928), was the dominant philosopher of the era until his identification with Nazism and support of Hitler during the 1930s. While he retained his position at the University of Frieburg until his death, his reputation never fully recovered from his support of fascism and the Third Reich -- in spite of his subsequent explanations. Arendt was a German political theorist who was interested in all aspects of power, and, in particular, in totalitarianism and authoritarianism. As a Jew -- though not religious -- Arendt fled Europe in 1941 and arrived in the United States; she became an American citizen in 1950. Arendt taught at the University of California, Berkeley, Princeton University, and the New School of Social Research in New York. Among her numerous works were The Origins of Totalitarianism
(1955) and Eichman in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
(1963). Arendt was Heidegger's student and lover when she attended the University of Marburg during the 1920s; while Arendt married twice, she maintained contact with Heidegger and later advanced a sympathetic explanation for his support of the Nazis. Heidegger was married and conducted at least one other affair in addition to that with Arendt; Heidegger's principal love in his life was himself -- everyone else, including Arendt, played supporting roles." William T. Walker, Cerise Press
(Read the entire Cerise Press review
Hannah Arendt, his brilliant, beautiful student and young lover, sought to enable a decent society of human beings in relation to one other. She was courageous in the time of crisis. Years later, she was even able to meet Heidegger once again on common ground and to find in his past behavior an insight into Nazism that would influence her reflections on the banality of evil a concept that remains bitterly controversial and profoundly influential to this day But how could Arendt have renewed her friendship with Heidegger? And how has this relationship affected her reputation as a cultural critic? InStranger from Abroad, Daniel Maier-Katkin offers a compassionate portrait that provides much-needed insight into this relationship. Maier-Katkin creates a detailed and riveting portrait of Arendt s rich intellectual and emotional life, shedding light on the unique bond she shared with her second husband, Heinrich Blucher, and on her friendships with Mary McCarthy, W. H. Auden, Karl Jaspers, and Randall Jarrell all fascinating figures in their own right. An elegant, accessible introduction to Arendt s life and work, Stranger from Abroad makes a powerful and hopeful case for the lasting relevance of Arendt s thought. "
Shaking up the content and method by which generations of students had studied Western philosophy, Martin Heidegger sought to ennoble man's existence in relation to death. Yet in a time of crisis, he sought personal advancement, becoming the most prominent German intellectual to join the Nazis. Hannah Arendt, his brilliant, beautiful student and young lover, sought to enable a decent society of human beings in relation to one other. She was courageous in the time of crisis. Years later, she was even able to meet Heidegger once again on common ground and to find in his past behavior an insight into Nazism that would influence her reflections on "the banality of evil"--a concept that remains bitterly controversial and profoundly influential to this day. But how could Arendt have renewed her friendship with Heidegger? And how has this relationship affected her reputation as a cultural critic? In , Daniel Maier-Katkin offers a compassionate portrait that provides much-needed insight into this relationship. Maier-Katkin creates a detailed and riveting portrait of Arendt's rich intellectual and emotional life, shedding light on the unique bond she shared with her second husband, Heinrich Blücher, and on her friendships with Mary McCarthy, W. H. Auden, Karl Jaspers, and Randall Jarrell--all fascinating figures in their own right. An elegant, accessible introduction to Arendt's life and work, makes a powerful and hopeful case for the lasting relevance of Arendt's thought.
Two titans of twentieth-century thought: their lives, loves, ideas, and politics.
A biography of one of the leading intellectuals in postwar America, author of the controversial Eichmann in Jerusalem, which introduced the concept of banality of evil, changing in a single phrase our view of humanity.
Hannah Arendt, one of the most gifted and provocative voices of her era, was a polarizing cultural theorist—extolled by her peers as a visionary and berated by her critics as a poseur and a fraud. Born in Prussia to assimilated Jewish parents, she escaped from Hitler’s Germany in 1933 and is now best remembered for the storm of controversy that arose after the publication of her 1963 New Yorker series on the trial of the kidnapped Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. Arendt was a woman of many contradictions. She was brilliant, beautiful when young, and irresistible to gifted men, even in her chain-smoking, intellectually provocative middle age. She learned to write in English only at the age of thirty-six, and yet her first book, The Origins of Totalitarianism, single-handedly altered the way generations of Americans and Europeans viewed fascism and genocide. Her most famous—and most divisive—work, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, created fierce controversy that continues to this day, exacerbated by the posthumous discovery that she had been the lover of the great romantic philosopher and Nazi sympathizer Martin Heidegger. In this fast-paced, comprehensive biography, Anne C. Heller tracks the source of Arendt’s apparent contradictions and her greatest achievements to her sense of being what she called a “conscious pariah”—one of those few people in every time and place who doesn’t “lose confidence in ourselves if society does not approve us” and will not “pay any price” to gain the acceptance of others.
About the Author
Anne C. Heller is the author of Ayn Rand and the World She Made. She was a fiction editor at Esquire and the executive editor of the magazine-development group at Condé Nast Publications.