Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt: A Tyranny of Truth

Hannah Arendt is a writer/thinker whose work on totalitarianism has come back into popular demand these days of "interesting times." The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt is a biographical chronicle that gets at her private and public lives in interesting fashion. It follows chronologically, beginning with her precocious and troubled childhood. As you can read from the following excerpt, her father's descent into syphilitic insanity was only part of the experience:
I got these preview images from Tablet Magazine

She was also a brilliant thinker who worked and studied with contemporary movers and shakers of the time, most notably Martin Heidegger, who was both her teacher and lover for a number of years. Over the course of this book, she escapes twice from the Nazis, once from Germany and the second time from Paris, and the third escape more has to do with how she reconciled her own thinking with Heidgger's, even as he was a Nazi sympathizer. She was a complicated woman who lived in complicated times, and I feel that her thinking is vital for dealing with thoughts of personal responsibility and justice, especially today.

In many ways, this book is dense with events, ideas, and the past. There is some built-in support in the footnotes, which helped the reader keep up with all the various historical figures, provided context, and served as further avenues for reading and research for those inclined. The art style is on the sketchy side, but I feel it is still rather evocative and energetic. Overall, this book provided me a compelling and very informative reading experience.

Ken Krimstein created this book, and his extensive research is apparent from the plotting and footnotes. His comics work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, The New Yorker, and other high profile venues. He has a collection of cartoons called Kvetch as Kvetch Can, and he also teaches at DePaul University. His prose writing has been published in McSweeney's. Krimstein speaks about his work on The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt in this print interview, this podcast interview, and in this comic.

The reviews I have read about this book have been largely positive. Kirkus Reviews gave it a starred review that concluded, "A compelling performance with great pacing that makes abstruse political theory both intelligible and memorable." Publishers Weekly called it a "fascinating if cluttered biographical portrait." Bookmunch summed up, "Krimstein’s artistic style may not be to everybody’s tastes but the story he tells, of a woman who fought for the importance of thought itself, is one that needs telling and retelling."

The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt was published by Bloomsbury, and they offer a preview and more here.

The published provided a review copy.

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