Twenty-five years after her death, we are still coming to terms with the controversial figure of Hannah Arendt. Interlacing the life and work of this seminal twentieth-century philosopher, Julia Kristeva provides us with an elegant, sophisticated biography brimming with historical and philosophical insight. Centering on the theme of female genius, Hannah Arendt emphasizes three features of the philosopher's work. First, by exploring Arendt's critique of Saint Augustine and her biographical essay on Rahel Varnhagen, Kristeva accentuates Arendt's commitment to recounting lives and narration. Second, Kristeva reflects on Arendt's perspective on Judaism, anti-Semitism, and the "banality of evil." Finally, the biography assesses Arendt's intellectual journey, placing her enthusiasm for observing both social phenomena and political events in the context of her personal life. Drawing on fragments of Arendt's most intimate correspondence with her longtime lover Martin Heidegger and her husband Heinrich Blucher, excerpts from her mother's "Unser Kind" (a diary tracking Hannah's formative years), and passages from Arendt's philosophical writings, Kristeva presents a luminous story.
With a thorough thematic index and bibliographical references, Hannah Arendt is a major breakthrough in the understanding of an essential thinker.