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You tell yourself you are Hannah Arendt

The following is a short amalgamation of three unfinished projects: a review of Margarethe Von Trotta’s 2013 film, Hannah Arendt, an unfinished book review of Hannah Arendt: The Last Interview and other Conversations and an essay centered on Hannah Arendt’s book Rahel Varnhagen: The Life of a Jewish Woman, first published in 1957.

By Bobbi Lurie.

Hannah Arendt - caption young copy

I was not raised by a father. Don’t forget that. Karl Jaspers was a father to me. You may not believe me, because of the nature of our relationship, but Heidegger was a father to me too. Heidegger never forgave me for becoming famous. I did my best to be solicitous. Unrequited love is my addiction. Heidegger is my real father. He was Mein Vater.

Only a once-beautiful-woman-turned-plain knows how to speak about love.

Beauty gave up on me, after loving me once. Von Trotta lacked the courage to show the fate of an aging woman with a Jewish face. She took on the easy grandeur of a German beauty, as if I could be anything like Barbara Sukowa, someone who works at becoming something other than what she is. That isn’t what I do.

Yes, I was dazzled by words.

Words in German ignite what can’t be ignited in English or French.

The sound of German brought me joy in 1949. But what was Jüdische, was, by then, forever gone. The ephemeral beauty of a stateless Jew, a pariah: that was my ideal.

To be whole, not to be separate or divided, not to cling to a political affiliation; to know the depth of love.

I am part of nothing; I am completely that which I love.

I was not arrogant; I simply did not see the whole.

I meant to be transparent. We must have faith in our fellow man. I meant no harm.

Please don’t put me a list with the women in this film. My relationships need meaning. Rahel Varnhagen is my my closest friend. I do not accept attempts to analyze the nature of our intimacy simply because she’s been dead for hundreds of years. I wrote a description of her inner life, as you do for me.

I do not attempt to know more about Rahel Varnhagen than she herself knew. I would never do that. Modernists are cruel to investigate the interior; they are nothing but gossips in a quest for comparisons.

I only want to meet the beloved in the aloneness of my soul.

I blend with night visions of the dead and the living; I see everything.

Von Trotta replaced me. She rejected me, an aging woman delighting in the magic of thought. She does not show me as the homely wife of a lecherous man; she does not show how I chose, every day, to see him in a beautiful light. Because love is not political. Er ist mein Mann.

The camera never saw me. Nor did Heidegger ever see me. I saved him. He did nothing for me. I forgave him. Forgiveness is the only way to live. I rejected the idea of radical Evil in favor of radical Good.

What was misunderstood was my tone, you see. One’s tone is one’s essence; there is nothing I can do about it.

If I am not loved, I, myself, am still able to love. No one can stop me.

Yes. Of course I am a Jew. I am a Jew.

Please come to my apartment for drinks tonight. Don’t be offended if my husband kisses you. He is Mein Liebling. I love life.

Hannah Arendt - caption old copy



Bobbi Lurie is a visual artist, poet and essayist who is the author of four poetry collections. She is in the process of completing a book about Marcel Duchamp. The above illustration is her own, entitled ‘Unfinished Projects’.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, October 1st, 2015.