An evenhanded, sympathetic biography of a defiant thinker.



A perceptive life of the controversial political philosopher.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) became “an icon almost overnight” after the publication of The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), a book that former Esquire fiction editor Heller (Ayn Rand and the World She Made, 2009) praises as “the most passionate, complex, moving, and influential account ever written of the clash between civilization and official barbarism in twentieth-century Europe.” It also was Arendt’s first book in English, the language she learned with some difficulty after arriving in New York in 1941, a refugee from Germany and Vichy France. By the 1950s, Arendt established a reputation as an outspoken political theorist in essays on anti-Semitism, German existentialism, and minority rights that appeared in prestigious publications that included Contemporary Jewish RecordPartisan ReviewCommentary, and the Nation. New York intellectuals were smitten by the woman Alfred Kazin called “a blazing Jew.” Arendt seemed the perfect writer to report for the New Yorker on the trial, in 1963, of Nazi SS Officer Adolf Eichmann, but her articles, followed by the book Eichmann in Jerusalem: The Banality of Evil, generated outrage. Friends, allies, and colleagues accused her of “moral deafness. Instead of damning Eichmann as the embodiment of evil, she portrayed him as a new “ ‘mass man,’ a universal, postindustrial, semi-Marxian type who was characteristically lonely, rootless, socially adrift, economically expendable, and susceptible to both nihilism and authoritarianism.” After her death, when her love affair with philosopher and Nazi party member Martin Heidegger became known, critics accused her of “Jewish ‘self-hatred.’ ” Heller judiciously places both scandals in the context of Arendt’s youth in Germany, where she felt exempt from anti-Semitic remarks directed mostly to Eastern European Jews; her education as a philosopher; her struggles with Zionism and her own Jewish identity; and her prolific writings on violence, truth, and political discourse.

An evenhanded, sympathetic biography of a defiant thinker.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-45619-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Amazon Publishing/New Harvest

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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