“On Love and Tyranny: The Life and Politics of Hannah Arendt” by Dr. Ann Heberlein— A New Biography of Hannah Arendt

Heberlein, Dr. Ann. “On Love and Tyranny: The Life and Politics of Hannah Arendt”, translated by Alice Menzies, Anansi International, 2021.

A New Biography of Hannah Arendt

Amos Lassen

As a huge follower of Hannah Arendt, I try to read whatever is available about her and have been waiting to read a new biography for sometime now. It is not easy to write about a philosophical icon whose influence has been felt large and wide so my expectations were especially high. Biographer Dr. Ann Heberlein uses a unique approach to the life of Arendt, the German Jewish intellectual whose political philosophy and understandings of evil, totalitarianism, love, and exile became essential study with the rise of the refugee crisis and authoritarian regimes around the world.
According to Heberlein, the most important thing that we can learn from Arendt to that we must love the world as much as possible and understand that change is indeed possible. But of course, that idea is too simple for Arendt and she has so much more to say. Arendtian thought spans a very crucial and important period of history of the Western world. It was a time of the Nazi regime, the Cold War and the rise of dictators.

Arendt examines our ideas about humanity and its value and its guilt and responsibility and we see here that her thought is based upon what she experienced in life and her ideas about evil (having had to personally deal with it), love, exile, statelessness, and longing. The book is a study of political themes that are very much a part of us today especially in the ways that democracies can easily become totalitarian state as well as the very personal and intimate recollections of Arendt’s circle of lovers and friends— Martin Heidegger, Walter Benjamin, Simone de Beauvoir, and Jean-Paul Sartre (although I did feel that these sections were a bit to gossipy but very readable) and the moral deconstructions of what it means “to be human and what it means to be humane.”

We read of a Hannah Arendt for today, a philosopher whose own examinations into the nature of good and evil and love and as relevant as ever. We see how thought, life and the personal come together and cannot be separated.

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