Reflections of Literature and Culture

Hannah Arendt, Author . Stanford Univ. $65 (360p) ISBN 978-0-8047-4498-0 ISBN 978-0-8047-4499-7

The late German-Jewish political theorist Arendt returned repeatedly in her work to the effects and proper uses of power and authority. This career-spanning collection of essays will reinforce for any reader that these preoccupations followed her even into literary criticism, as when she discusses Rilke's Duino Elegies in terms of religion and the search for God. Literature and culture are defined broadly, as the volume includes essays on novelists and poets like Proust, Kipling and Auden, as well as political theorists and economists. Pieces written in German were translated by different people, which renders Arendt's style somewhat harder to assess than those written in English, where the author's dry wit as well as her erudition are evident, as when she writes, in "The Jew as Pariah": "when it comes to claiming its own in the field of European arts and letters, the attitude of the Jewish people may best be described as one of reckless magnanimity. With a grand gesture and without a murmur of protest it has calmly allowed the credit for its great writers to go to other peoples, itself receiving in return... the doubtful privilege of being acclaimed father of every notorious swindler and mountebank." (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 01/01/2007
Release date: 02/01/2007
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