Hannah Arendt: A Life in Dark Times

Anne C. Heller. Amazon/New Harvest, $20 (144p) ISBN 978-0-544-45619-8
Heller’s short life of Hannah Arendt doesn’t offer any new information on the provocative writer or any new perspectives on her writing. Nonetheless, it’s a readable and serviceable introduction Arendt and her work, beginning with an account of the uproar around her most controversial book, Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963), based on a series of stories published in the New Yorker. Born in central Germany, the only child of prosperous and well-educated parents, Arendt was a “fluent babbler” who by age six was a “tiny phenomenon of abstract thinking,” interested in mathematics and music theory. In 1924, at 18, she entered Marburg University, falling under the sway of philosopher Martin Heidegger and embarking on a passionate three-year affair with him. After fleeing from Berlin to Paris in 1933, she made her way to New York City with her husband, Heinrich Blücher. Soon, she was contributing essays on philosophy and politics to Partisan Review, Commentary, and the Nation. In 1949, Arendt completed her majestic work The Origins of Totalitarianism, which aimed to comprehend the incomprehensible: “the demonic wish to make men superfluous to others and themselves.” Heller leaves readers with a familiar yet well-wrought portrait of Arendt as a rootless woman who nevertheless established strong friendships and influenced a large circle of followers. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/01/2015
Release date: 08/18/2015
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