Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Letters: 1925-1975

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Letters: 1925-1975

Article excerpt

PHILOSOPHY & RELIGIOUS STUDIES Letters: 1925-1975, by Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger. Translated by Andrew Shields. Edited by Ursula Ludz. Harcourt, February 2004. $28

The publication of this correspondence in English, six years after its publication in German, is a happy occurrence; but the value of it for understanding either Arendt or Heidegger, two philosophical giants of the century (Arendt, admittedly, in a minor key), is quite limited. These letters, and the relationship from which they emerge, have been the subject of a somewhat bodice-ripping quasi novella-masquerading as a semibiography-by Elzbieta Ettinger, a book which made much of the affair Arendt and Heidegger carried on in the 1920s. In fact, as anyone who has read Arendt on the distinction between "private" and "public" could have foreseen, the public's knowledge of the affair, and now of the letters marking its progress and the participants' afterlife, reveals very little of any import regarding either figure's thinking, and very little of any salacious interest regarding the details of the affair. In fact, the letters are a study in the public's inaccessibility to others' intimacies. …

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