Review

Within Four Walls: The Correspondence between Hannah Arendt and Heinrich Blücher, 1936-1968

by

It
is rare to read a book of correspondence between two well-known
writers and thinkers that has as much emotional impact as WITHIN
FOUR WALLS: The Correspondence Between Hannah Arendt and Heinrich
Blucher, 1936-1968. As we witness throughout the 32 years of
letters and other writings exchanged by these two brilliant minds,
there existed not only a deep and abiding respect for each other's
intellectual capabilities but also a core of love that grew
stronger and stronger over the years, over their varying university
positions, their public writings, their lasting psychological scars
from their escape from Nazi Germany in 1933. Married in 1940, the
couple remained together throughout many dark times, when their
dependence on each other was the only bulwark against a storm of
controversy for their political and intellectual
actions.
The
way in which each letter moves swiftly between the mundane and the
historically significant ("Paris is teeming with Americans --- all
of whom are complaining about the food! You see, one never learns.
But there are cherries and strawberries, very cheap, and I'm
feasting!... Heidegger sent me a transcript of a discussion in
Zurich. In part, quite nice and lively; in part also --- enfin, on
verra.... Your Hannah.") shows us a human side of this
philosophical giant, one of the few women philosophers of the 20th
century whose works are still considered valuable as her posthumous
days grow in length. The relationships they had with other writers
and thinkers (most especially Arendt's passionate friendship with
Mary McCarthy and her difficult but fascinatingly complicated
association with the Heideggers) make these letters seem even more
important --- they are the philosophy world's version of a
celebrity tell-all book.
In a
world where quick e-mails take the place of long and detailed
letters of those set apart from loved ones by work and location, it
may seem archaic or even quaint to experience this deep and loving
relationship through letters. Certainly, both parties spent a great
deal of time on the road, and their words to each other were
probably a very important way to keep their fragile egos in check
and their insecurities about their relationship in good order. It
seems as if, with the power of their language and the combination
of everyday and workaday details in these letters, both Arendt and
Blucher benefited greatly from the correspondence and that their
love was never in danger. They grew to understand each other more
and more through their writings --- a perfect way for two
intellectuals to wend their ways into each other's hearts more
deeply.
A
fascinating book, nicely edited by Kohler, who puts the
correspondence together in such a way that it is a story of a
marriage, told from start to almost end, and a testament to love
and mutual respect that is so rare in this world we live in
today.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on January 24, 2011

Within Four Walls: The Correspondence between Hannah Arendt and Heinrich Blücher, 1936-1968
by

  • Publication Date: November 17, 2000
  • Genres: Literature
  • Hardcover: 700 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • ISBN-10: 0151003033
  • ISBN-13: 9780151003037