At once concise and thorough, Anne C. Heller’s achievement in this carefully focused biography and appraisal makes the case for the good short book. The skillful compression of facts, contexts, and impact allows for a great feeling of kinetic energy. It is a book that, like its subject, feels ready to explode.
Heller’s point of attack is the publication and immediate aftermath of Arendt’s most notorious book, Eichmann in Jerusalem—a wise and dramatically effective choice. Demystifying the arch-villain into an unimaginative functionary, Arendt formulated the term “the banality of evil” to suggest that the monster within people like Eichmann is marked by an astounding ordinariness. The publication outraged Arendt’s admirers, including a large swath of the intellectual Jewish community, and sent this major woman thinker—who always felt herself an outcast—into a degree of social and occupational exile that was painful and perplexing.
This outsider perspective was in part the product of Arendt’s Jewish identity, a facet of her being that underwent several transformations, each treated by Heller with good sense and sensitivity. . . .
To read the full review, click here: Hannah Arendt: A Life in Dark Times by Anne C. Heller | Jewish Book Council
See also my interview with biographer Anne C. Heller: Interview with Anne C. Heller, Author of ‘Hannah Arendt: A Life in Dark Times’