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978-0-14-026974-1 / 0140269746

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About the book:

Peter Baehr's anthology is a gem made up of 33 selections supplemented by his highly competent introduction, a chronology covering the major events in Hannah Arendt's life, and a basic bibliography. Arendt's erudition and incisive brilliance are well represented throughout. Passages include lengthy excerpts from her major books (The Origins of Totalitarianism, The Human Condition, On Revolution, and Eichmann in Jerusalem), shorter excerpts from Rahel Varnhagen and The Life of the Mind, eight essays (four from Between Past and Future, one from Men in Dark Times, and two not previously available in book form), a University of Chicago lecture, her famous television interview with Guenter Gaus, four letters (two to Karl Jaspers, others to Mary McCarthy and Gershom Scholem), and a brief journal entry (on Heidegger "the fox"). Ever sensitive to the limitations of anthologies, particularly for the work of thinkers like Arendt, Baehr has managed to effectively convey the feel of Arendt's conscientious yet combative thinking through his selections and arrangements.

Arendt burst upon the world literary stage in 1951 with The Origins of Totalitarianism and a Saturday Review cover photo. She understood totalitarianism as an unprecedented phenomenon, identifying several elements that fused into it and analyzing totalitarian movements and rule. The success of Origins led to prestigious lectureships and 25 years of fiercely independent writing and teaching. She proved knowledgeable about philosophy as well as history and politics, fluent not only in English and German (her beloved "mother tongue") but also in French, Greek, and Latin. This precocious German Jewess had devoted her college years to studying philosophy, theology, and Greek (with Heidegger, Jaspers, Husserl, and Bultmann!), but the Nazi rise to power compelled Arendt to focus on politics, especially the Jewish question. From the '50s until her death in 1975, Arendt developed and publicly defended controversial views, including her report on the Eichmann trial and her coinage "the banality of evil"; her opposition to integrationist busing and to affirmative action hiring in universities; and her version of (classical) republicanism, rooted in her radical understandings of human action and the dignity of politics. All these views and more find expression in this collection. Of late, Arendt's fame has been rekindled by revelations of her love affair with Heidegger. Now, as we approach her birth centenary (2006), this Portable provides newcomers and faithful admirers alike a marvelous package of Arendt's writings. --Richard Kenney

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