MEN IN DARK TIMES
Hierarchy of values, knowledge, sympathy, independence and lucidity of judgment, above all an historical mind--these are the attributes of the beneficent critic. Each of Hannah Arendt's essays, each a model of clarity, weight, gravity, sustained force and form, each superbly centered on the moods, manners, works, and "dark times" of ten exemplary men and women--"how they lived their lives, how they moved in the world"--become perhaps most rewarding when the author extends the boundaries of her discussions and consciously (sometimes unconsciously) looks for symmetries of thought and feeling, the archetypal rather than the topical. No doubt, there is little in common between Broch and Brecht, Walter Benjamin and Randall Jarrell, and nothing at all between Rosa Luxemburg and Isak Dinesen, Lessing and Pope John. But Hannah Arendt still writes in the great European tradition (she must be its last surviving representative, at least of those who write in English and are read beyond the academy), so the disciplines with which she is most familiar--politics, philosophy, literature--always converge or spring from a single source, a humanist world-view where ethics and aesthetics, socialist ideals and Jasperian existenz complement one another, and do so in the most sophisticated, rigorous, and satisfying way possible.