Hannah Arendt (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, a former student of Hannah Arendt, begins her biography of her eminent teacher with a study of Arendt’s family and educational background (1906-1933), proceeds to a description of her life in Europe as a refugee (1933-1941), and concludes with a series of chapters concerning her life in the United States (1941-1975). Young-Bruehl’s stated intention is to produce a work of “philosophical biography,” a work which shows the “historical bases for [Arendt’s] generalizations, the particular experiences that launched her thought, the friendships and loves that nourished her, and—if possible—her thinking manner or thinking style.”
Inevitably, the result of such an ambitious enterprise is a book of considerable length, well over five hundred pages. Young-Bruehl is at her best when she analyzes Hannah Arendt’s philosophical theories, the assumptions underlying those theories, and her style of presentation. Her examination of the controversy which arose over Arendt’s articles on the Eichmann trial is impressive because of the kinds of questions she considers. Instead of arguing simplistically for or against Arendt’s positions, she examines the reasons why her articles on the Eichmann trial became so controversial.
In spite of its obvious strengths, however, Young-Bruehl’s biography is marred by a number of significant weaknesses. There are times when the book seems too heavily psychological, veering into...
(The entire section is 1422 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
Choice. XX, September, 1982, p. 182.
Christian Science Monitor. June 2, 1982, p. 17.
Library Journal. CVII, May 1, 1982, p. 883.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. May 30, 1982, p. 10.
Ms. X, June, 1982, p. 80.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXVII, April 25, 1982, p. 1.
Newsweek. XCIX, May 3, 1982, p. 75.
Saturday Review. IX, May, 1982, p. 66.
Time. CXIX, April 1, 1982, p. 77.
Times Literary Supplement. August 6, 1982, p. 843.
(The entire section is 52 words.)