cover image Martin and Hannah

Martin and Hannah

Catherine Clement. Prometheus Books, $30 (304pp) ISBN 978-1-57392-906-6

Cl ment is a French literary journalist familiar with the often abstruse codes used by prominent French intellectuals. She has spent the second phase of her career extending her popularizing talents into fiction. In her latest novel to be translated here, she tackles the adulterous tryst between Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger. The novel opens with Hannah visiting the Master for the last time, in 1975, and proceeds to shuffle between the stagy dialogue produced by Hannah and Elfriede, Heidegger's wife, and scenes from Arendt's and Heidegger's past, both as Arendt remembers it and as Martin, shown lapsing into a perhaps senile stupor, dreams it. Hannah thinks that Elfriede was responsible for Heidegger's terrible lapse his embrace of Nazism in the '30s, culminating in the infamous rector's speech at the University of Freiburg in 1933. Elfriede, who was indeed the first Nazi in the family, having taken up with the Party in the '20s, insists that Heidegger made his own choices. Elfriede naturally considers Hannah a disruptive influence, while seeing her own role as successfully creating a stable atmosphere within which Heidegger could think. Cl ment plays with the idea that the contrasting roles of Hannah and Elfriede are reflected, in Being and Time, as the difference between Being and Care. Unfortunately, spritzing Judith Krantz-like romance over Being and Time does not work well, and the interplay between Martin's two aging women veers from stereotypical melodrama (the other woman and the wounded wife) to pop philosophy considerations of Time. In the end, neither Arendt nor Heidegger are served well by this effort. (Mar.)