The Philosopher’s Trail: On Samantha Rose Hill’s “Hannah Arendt”

Shaan Sachdev over at the LA Review of Books:

A FEW YEARS AGO, I trekked, biked, and rode trains and buses through Weimar, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Stuttgart, Freiburg, Todtnauberg, Basel, and, finally, Sils Maria. I was in Germany and Switzerland, with a servile sort of eros, to gape and touch and stroll through the universities and apartments at which some of our grandest modern philosophers had once lived: Goethe, Hegel, Husserl, Schopenhauer, Heidegger, Nietzsche, Jaspers, and Arendt. Locals and students expressed little surprise when they learned I was poking around the Hegel Haus or peeking inside classrooms at Freiburg where Edmund Husserl taught phenomenology. The manager of a prim restaurant inside Todtnauberg’s nicest hotel excitedly interrupted my dinner of white fish and potatoes to show me the photographs on his office walls of his father together with Martin Heidegger; then he poured me a few glasses of Spätburgunder on the house.

Curiously, the only name of the lot that elicited more confusion than ratification — also the only woman and the only one to have persistently rebuffed the ascription of “philosopher” — was Hannah Arendt. There was less consensus about her legacy and allure. “Why her?” asked a young woman at the University of Freiburg who had spiritedly agreed to sneak me into Kollegiengebäude I, which hosted the philology, theology, and philosophy departments. “Was she one of the greats?”

More here.