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Stranger from Abroad: Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger, Friendship and Forgiveness

Stranger from Abroad: Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger, Friendship and Forgiveness

3.5 2
by Daniel Maier-Katkin

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Two titans of twentieth-century thought: their lives, loves, ideas, and politics.
Shaking up the content and method by which generations of students had studied Western philosophy, Martin Heidegger sought to ennoble man’s existence in relation to death. Yet in a time of crisis, he sought personal advancement, becoming the most prominent German


Two titans of twentieth-century thought: their lives, loves, ideas, and politics.
Shaking up the content and method by which generations of students had studied Western philosophy, Martin Heidegger sought to ennoble man’s existence in relation to death. Yet in a time of crisis, he sought personal advancement, becoming the most prominent German intellectual to join the Nazis.
Hannah Arendt, his brilliant, beautiful student and young lover, sought to enable a decent society of human beings in relation to one other. She was courageous in the time of crisis. Years later, she was even able to meet Heidegger once again on common ground and to find in his past behavior an insight into Nazism that would influence her reflections on “the banality of evil”—a concept that remains bitterly controversial and profoundly influential to this day.
But how could Arendt have renewed her friendship with Heidegger? And how has this relationship affected her reputation as a cultural critic? In Stranger from Abroad, Daniel Maier-Katkin offers a compassionate portrait that provides much-needed insight into this relationship.
Maier-Katkin creates a detailed and riveting portrait of Arendt’s rich intellectual and emotional life, shedding light on the unique bond she shared with her second husband, Heinrich Blücher, and on her friendships with Mary McCarthy, W. H. Auden, Karl Jaspers, and Randall Jarrell—all fascinating figures in their own right. An elegant, accessible introduction to Arendt’s life and work, Stranger from Abroad makes a powerful and hopeful case for the lasting relevance of Arendt’s thought.

Editorial Reviews

“Starred Review. Readers welcoming diverse perspectives will benefit from this inquiry into a relationship uniquely freighted with historical meaning.”
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein
“Few relationships are more mysterious than that between Arendt and Heidegger. More interesting than their brief love affair when she was his young student is the attitude she took toward him in her maturity. Despite his Nazi affiliation, she refused to write him out of her life and out of intellectual history. This is a humane, judicious, and utterly absorbing account of Heidegger's role in Arendt's life and thought.”
Vivian Gornick
“An excellent introduction to the story of one of the most dramatic and fascinating relationships of the twentieth century.”
Ronald Florence
“A useful counterpoint to the recent debates about Heidegger's relationship to Nazi ideology, and whether [Arendt's] admiration for Heidegger informed her thinking about the Holocaust and her formulation of the 'banality of evil.'”
Philip Jenkins
“It's one thing to study the ideological debates that so traumatized twentieth century Europe, and quite another to explore them on a painfully human scale. Through the interlocking lives of two enormously influential individuals, Maier-Katkin's book illuminates the intellectual and moral struggles of the era. The book is at once impressive in its breadth of historical vision, and richly textured in its psychological portraits.”
Jeff VanderMeer
“Dan Maier-Katkin has written a uniquely fascinating book that manages to capture the passions and intellectual complexity of a relationship but also the complexity of the world and events surrounding that relationship. I was profoundly moved by the book. It is rare that an author can care so intensely about a subject and yet have enough distance to write about it so well. I loved the book and can't recommend it highly enough.”
Publishers Weekly
A competent if pedestrian account of the relationship between two major figures of 20th-century philosophy that focuses on the influence of their friendship upon Arendt’s intellectual development. Tracing their bond from when the young Arendt was Heidegger’s student and subsequently his lover, Maier-Katkin, professor of criminology at Florida State University, offers an intellectual biography of the Jewish political philosopher whose preoccupations included pluralism, injustice, and the nature of evil, against the background of her lifelong connection with a thinker whose own history was marred by involvement with Nazism. The author is admirably evenhanded in his assessment of this dimension of Heidegger’s life, but his sympathy clearly lies with Arendt, whose writings, in particular her prescient essays on Israel and her account of the Adolf Eichmann trial, he passionately defends. Overall, the book offers little insight into either of its subjects, relying too much on previous biographies and synopses of Arendt’s major writings. The author’s guiding insight, that Arendt’s friendship with Heidegger exemplifies her notions of thoughtfulness and forgiveness, is compelling but regrettably underdeveloped. But at its best the book offers a fascinating snapshot of the divergent ways two towering intellects responded to the 20th century’s darkest moments. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Personal interest seems to have motivated Maier-Katkin (criminology, Florida State Univ.) to research and recapitulate the relationship between Nazification-prone Heidegger and his Jewish protogée. Maier-Katkin keeps at least one of the two center stage as he works through developments and changes in world events, from the onset of their love affair when she was a student, and evolving philosophical interests held by each of them and their contemporaries. Heidegger's personal and political opportunism, and Arendt's struggles to be what she would consider fair in her dealings with all are made accessible to popular readers in this version of their joint and separate lives. VERDICT This is more a joint biography than a comparison and contrast of philosophical theory. As such, it is best suited to readers in public and undergraduate libraries.—Francisca Goldsmith, Halifax P.L., NS
Kirkus Reviews
Two of the 20th-century's great thinkers become entangled in romance, the Holocaust, estrangement and reconciliation. In 1924, Hannah Arendt (1906-1965) was a student of Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) at the University of Marburg in Germany. Although he was married and a father, their relationship quickly became intimate as well as intellectual, and it endured-with long hiatuses, some angry, some merely neglectful, and fundamental alterations-until her death. Although Maier-Katkin (Criminology and Criminal Justice/Florida State Univ.) declares "very weak" the evidence of Heidegger's anti-Semitism and his involvement with the Nazis before they assumed control of the country, he joined the party in 1933 and allowed them to use his name and considerable scholarly prestige to help legitimize their dominion. In 1936 he was still wearing the party's lapel pin, though the Nazi authorities, skeptical about his loyalty, never granted him the audience with Hitler he'd once sought. Meanwhile, Arendt-who had completed her doctorate-and her family fled to France, managing through her connections to obtain visas for the United States. They arrived in 1941. Early in the narrative, Maier-Katkin alternates between the two principals, charting their romantic lives, marriages, scholarly work and publications. But after Arendt's arrival in the United States, the story becomes hers. Although she knew little English, she soon mastered it and had early editorial jobs before commencing her distinguished teaching and writing careers. The author is an advocate for both Heidegger and Arendt-though he is far harder on the former, calling the philosopher's actions "shameful"-and he provides a lengthy defense ofArendt's most controversial work, Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963), and its analysis of what she called "the banality of evil," a phrase that continues to foment fiery debate nearly a half-century later. Thoroughly researched, but often reads like a sympathetic, tendentious lawyer's brief.

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author

Daniel Maier-Katkin is a professor of criminology and criminal justice and a Fellow of the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights at Florida State University. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida.

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Stranger from Abroad: Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger, Friendship and Forgiveness 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
F.Brauer More than 1 year ago
Stranger From Abroad by Daniel Maier-Katkin is a biography of Hannah Arendt - one of the twentieth century's sharpest minds. A political philosopher and renowned lecturer, she gained prominence for her erudite, but today obsolete, works The Origins of Totalitarianism, Human Condition, and by the report Eichmann in Jerusalem. Assessing Arendt thirty five years after her death, it appears that while her legacy in political sciences fades away, two stories in her life continue to draw attention. Her lifelong relationship with German philosopher Martin Heidegger, her teacher and lover (and member of Nazi party), is a story of friendship and forgiveness, particularly fascinating in the face of his duplicity and his lifelong arrogance toward her. The other story is of Arendt's insensitive to the victims of Holocaust reporting on the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, summarized by a catchy, but bizarre phrase - the Banality of Evil. Daniel Maier-Katkin, who's own political views appear to resonate with that of Arendt's, has selected the story of friendship and forgiveness, dosing her biography with excessive amount of liberal political saccharine and grafting his own post-Zionist views onto her legacy. But what is glossed over in his book is not less important then what is praised. Politically and culturally a product of the Weimar republic, Hannah Arendt associated herself, after the Nazi victory, with German Zionism. It was a cultural movement of little practical consequence, whose main weapon was a pen, a speech, a political campaign, in contrast to East European Zionism - a liberation movement which did not shy away from a pickaxe, a shovel and, later, a rifle. Hannah Arendt identified herself with Martin Buber and Yehuda Magnes, German-Jewish luminaries she had sympathy for. The legendary David Ben-Gurion, Chaim Weitzman, Vladimir Zhabotinsky were the Russian-Jewish Zionist leaders Hanna Arendt never spoke kindly of. Conciliatory in nature and not able to handle the heat of the military solution to the Arab-Jewish clash in Palestine, she broke off with Zionism after the establishment of Israel and grumbled about Zionist politics ever since. That brings us to the reason why she gained notoriety for her reporting on the trial of Adolph Eichmann. The trial, which took place in Jerusalem in 1961, drew the attention of the world to the Holocaust - something the Nuremberg Trials in 1946 failed to do. Published in 1963 as the book Eichmann in Jerusalem, her reporting contained, among other things, a highly contested thesis summarized by famous catch phrase - "The Banality of Evil". Eichmann, according to her thesis, was not acting out of radical malevolence toward the Jews, but was merely carrying orders without consideration of their effects on the victims. The reports also pronounced the Jewish councils (Judenrat) culpable in cooperation with Nazi authorities. Adding insult to injury, Arendt criticized the Israeli PM Ben-Gurion for conveying a show trial in Jerusalem, instead of transferring Eichmann to the UN in order to be tried in International court. Her report caused deep consternation in Jewish circles, hurting the feelings of her old friends. Gershom Sholem, the world renown student of Kabbala, famously reproached her for the flippant tone of the report and lack of Ahavat Israel - love for her people. Justly or not, Hannah Arendt is remem