The Visitation of Hannah Arendt


Michal Ben-Naftali

Publisher Van Leer Institute Press and Hakibbutz Hameuchad
Language Hebrew
Year of Publication 2006
Series Theory and Criticism in Context Series

The Visitation of Hannah Arendt seeks to make use of the idea of birth, a central idea in the works of Hannah Arendt. A philosopher-historian well known for her engagement with the public sphere and political discourse as conditions for individuation, Arendt comes to Israel for intimate meetings, mostly in their homes, with four people: an anonymous student, Dahlia Ravikovitch, Stefan Zweig, and Michal Bat Shaul Hamelech. The experience makes for powerful reading; the very fact of an intellectual visit as a complex experience of mimesis and rejection is revealed as a birth, a spiritual birth.

The traditional formula of philosophical dialogue gives way to a quasi-genre of written visits, a genre that tries to be faithful to the length of breath, the music, and the unique rhythm of the visit, even when it is converted from speech to written form. At the heart of the book are two essays derived from the same homey logic of the controller of the visit: On the poem of Dahlia Ravikovitch “Hovering at Low Altitude” and on the report Arendt wrote on Eichmann. Through aesthetic-semiotic investigation of the writers whose tributes seem to be so different from each other, one can see how, in both cases, the household, mother tongue, and fantasy elements seep into writing that deals with historico-political questions; moreover, how this seepage deepens the encounter with the political sphere and opens up additional possibilities for thinking about it and judging it.

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