This is a compelling, somewhat amusing, educational, and occasionally moving brief graphic novel about the life Hannah Arendt. When I was in my 20s, Hannah Arendt was my favourite philosopher. I’ve read The Human Condition three times, many of her other books, and the first of the major biographies written about her. She’s influenced the way I think perhaps more than anyone else. You’d think I would be the perfect person for this. However, this book is very much for people who don’t know her.
This is a good way to introduce people to difficult philosophers. By telling the story of Arendt’s life as a way of explaining her philosophy, it both makes it easier to understand her philosophy and it shows how her ideas were rooted in her life experience as well as her reading and education. I think this is a great approach for an introduction to philosophers, especially really difficult ones. I can imagine a book like this about Plato but I can also imagine one about Kant, or Wittgenstein, or Hegel, or any number of others. I sort of wish this was a series.
The book is pretty accurate about her life, and does a good job of briefly referencing all the famous people Arendt knew and interacted with during her life. It also is pretty fair about the whole Heidegger thing, which can obviously be handled different ways.
It’s obviously no substitute for an actual biography – I don’t know how much is fictionalized, but there’s plenty of Arendt thinking on the page – and its no substitute for reading her work. (To me, The Human Condition is one of the great works of philosophy of the 2oth century.) But it’s a really nice way into a newly reappreciated philosopher who is not easy to read. I think there’s a lot of value in that.