cover image Theodor W. Adorno: One Last Genius

Theodor W. Adorno: One Last Genius

Detlev Claussen, , trans. from the German by Rodney Livingstone. . Harvard/Belknap, $35 (464pp) ISBN 978-0-674-02618-6

Most people first encounter Theodor Adorno (1903–1969) as one of the leading lights of the Marxist philosophers known as the Frankfurt School and as the collaborator with Max Horkheimer on Dialectic of Enlightenment , which argued that the Enlightenment emphasis on reason gave rise to Nazi politics and genocide. Yet Adorno's writings ranged widely from aesthetics and music to ethics and literature. This elegant translation of Claussen's 2003 biography of his teacher provides the first glimpse of the depth of Adorno's life and thought. In masterful strokes, Claussen traces Adorno's life and work from his middle-class Jewish childhood in Frankfurt and Vienna and his university work on Kierkegaard to his friendships with Walter Benjamin and Thomas Mann, among others, and his later intellectual partnership with Horkheimer. Weaving in colorful excerpts of Adorno's writings, Claussen demonstrates the centrality of music and aesthetics to the philosopher and offers fresh insights into his life. Thanks to its depth and thoroughness, this lovingly crafted study will most certainly become the definitive portrait of Adorno, and it is also a captivating portrait of the incredibly shifting times, from Weimar to the Nazi regime, through which Adorno passed. 19 b&w photos. (Apr.)