This book is the first to tell in detail the story of the passionate and secret love affair between two of the most prominent philosophers of the twentieth century, Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger. Drawing on their previously unknown correspondence, Elzbieta Ettinger describes a relationship that lasted for more than half a century, a relationship that sheds startling light on both individuals, challenging our image of Heidegger as an austere and abstract thinker and of Arendt as a consummately independent and self-assured personality.
Arendt and Heidegger met in 1924 at the University of Marburg, when Arendt, an eighteen-year-old German Jew, became a student of Heidegger, a thirty-five-year-old married man. They were lovers for about four years; separated for almost twenty years, during which time Heidegger became a Nazi and Arendt emigrated to the United States and involved herself with issues of political theory and philosophy; resumed their relationship in 1950 and in spite of its complexities remained close friends until Arendt's death in 1975. Ettinger provides engrossing details of this strange and tormented relationship. She shows how Heidegger used Arendt but also influenced her thought, how Arendt struggled to forgive Heidegger for his prominent involvement with the Nazis, and how Heidegger's love for Arendt and fascination with Nazism can be linked to his romantic predisposition.
A dramatic love story and a revealing look at the emotional lives of two intellectual giants, the book will fascinate anyone interested in the complexities of the human psyche.
In 1924, Hannah Arendt, then an 18-year-old assimilated German Jew, fell in love with future Nazi Martin Heidegger, her 35-year-old married philosophy professor at the University of Marburg. Insecure, vulnerable Arendt, whose father died when she was seven, idealized Heidegger, who found in their four-year love affair a passionate physical and spiritual bond. Heidegger joined the Nazi Party and openly declared his support for Hitler in 1933; later that year, Arendt fled Germany and severed her ties with Heidegger. She went on to condemn fascism in The Origins of Totalitarianism, yet in 1950, encouraged by her second husband, Heinrich Bluecher, a German ex-communist and an admirer of Heidegger's philosophy, she resumed a friendship with her erstwhile lover, swallowing his lies that he was a helpless victim of malicious slander. As Massachusetts Institute of Technology humanities professor Ettinger shows in this revealing account of a strange mutual dependency that lasted until Arendt's death in 1975, Arendt became Heidegger's willing apologist despite mutual rancor, conflicting emotions and her branding of her former professor as a ``potential murderer.'' (Sept.)
In addition to Elisabeth Young-Bruehl's comprehensive biography, Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World (LJ 5/1/82), several studies of Arendt have appeared recently, and her correspondence is now available for critical examination. (See, for instance, Between Friends: The Correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy, 1949-1973, LJ 12/94, and Correspondence, 1926-1969, LJ 9/15/92, which collects her exchanges with Karl Jaspers and others.) What Ettinger (humanities, MIT) adds to this scholarship seems to be well-informed marginalia. Arendt's curious, troubled, and lengthy relationship with Heidegger is fairly presented in this slim work, but considerable knowledge of the personalities and professional works of both major players is presumed, and readers already familiar with the earlier and more comprehensive biographical works will find little new here, either in fact or in analysis. For comprehensive collections only.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley P.L., Cal.