Dear Miss Arendt,
I still have to go see her tonight and speak to her heart. Everything must be plain and clear and pure between us. Only then will we be worthy of meeting. The fact that you became my student and I, your teacher, is only the origin of what happened to us ”.
With these words begins the chronicle of a correspondence that lasted from 1925 to 1975 , with an obligatory interruption during that time in which language was eclipsed, losing, perhaps forever, the harmonious union between the signified and the signifier. Speech simply stopped speaking in a world in which those who clamored hymns to life were actually howling cries of death. In the end it turned out to be true that you can’t write what you don’t talk about and, for almost seventeen years, Martin Heidegger and Hannah Arendt did not send letters to each other.
In 1950, however, speech returned, although already a different one, tempered by the extinction of love inflammation . Silence, like time, is therapeutic. The “secret magician of thought” from Marburg stopped writing his compliments to that being in chiaroscuro who as soon presented himself as the “joking nymph of the forest”, as under the guise of an innocent and modest Sophia with “big and still eyes” . Now, the broadcaster of his letters was the essential friend , the one who communicated “something important in the Merkur “, who published “courageous and forceful” essays on the human condition, who fought relentlessly with the question of “radical evil” and what, wayward iscipula of philosophical thought, he dared to mark an alternative path that he, sheltered in his cabin in Todtnauberg, praised not without a certain amazement:
I guess, despite multiple posts in other directions, you stick with the philosophy. Here, of course, it has to give way to sociology, semantics and psychology. However, the end of philosophy could become the beginning of another thought.
But above all, from that moment on, Arendt became Heidegger’s greatest ally and the faithful guardian of his work, taking great care of its correct reception and translation into English, as evidenced by the entire seminar that enshrines to the presentation of Being and Time at Yale. Perhaps the most evident proof of Arendt’s fidelity is found in the radio speech of September 1969, on the occasion of Heidegger’s eightieth anniversary, in which he does not hesitate to publicly restore the value of Heidegger’s thought within the intellectual sphere of the century. xx.
Returning to the cards, the inaugural novelty of this second phase is the introduction of new actors: that is, new storytellers. Sporadic, inharmonious, and disharmonious, the voice of Heidegger’s wife sneaks in. The antipathy that Elfride Heidegger arouses in Arendt is evident and the tolerance of this inclusion is only explained as a gesture of consideration for the requirements of the old love. In one of the first letters exchanged between the two women, Arendt expresses in the following terms her conditions for the establishment of the terzetto :
You never hid your convictions, nor do you now, not even from me. This creed makes a conversation almost impossible, because what the other might say is characterized and (please forgive) cataloged from the outset: Jewish, German, Chinese. I am at all times ready, and I have hinted to Martin, to talk about these things in an objective and political way; I think I know a lot about it, but only on the condition of excluding the personal-human. The argumentum ad hominem is the bane of all communication because it includes something that is outside the freedom of the human being.
Also, although more veiled, without so much desire for prominence, the voice of Arendt’s second husband, Heinrich Blücher , sometimes sounds . Nor should the suggested presence of Hans Jonas be absent here , acting as the unfortunate herald of the news of Arendt’s death and making the letter from the political scientist, written on March 20, 1971, have something prophetic, an obituary of a death. announced:
It is very possible that in the end I will be able to finish a book that I am working on, a kind of second volume of the active Vita . On the non-active activities of the human being: thinking, wanting, judging. I have no idea if I will get it and, above all, when I will finish it. Maybe never. But if I finish it … Can I dedicate it to you?
By ironies of life, with a letter addressed to others, “to Arendt’s circle of friends,” whom he joins in the “deepest sadness”, Heidegger ends a story that began clandestinely in winter of 1925, in an hour of tutoring during which teacher and disciple fell into fascination : she with the genius of Heidegger, his “broad forehead”, and he with the incipient intelligence of the young Arendt, as well as the exotic and suggestive of her appearance, covered in that green suit and so far removed from the Teutonic feminine model: from that ideal Krimilda. In one of these first letters, Heidegger expresses what happened in the following terms: “The demonic has given in me.” Referring to the category of “das Dämonische” as understood by the romantics:the sublime and irresistible destructive power that underlies all creative process .
The letters of this early period are wrapped in the mystery that corresponds to the saying of the lovers : they are a whispered dialogue, feverish in the urge to become epidermis that touches the reading hand. As a secret they contain keys of understanding that only the chosen ones of the love rite can decipher: “Of course, if the lamp in my room is on, I am being held for an interview.” There is also a tacit asymmetry between the beloved and the lover, a typical structure of the Greek philosophical paideia . It is the erastes, the teacher , who orders and conducts the encounters with the eromenos, the disciple, thus establishing a love relationship whose ultimate goal is not erotic, but rather the conformation of the youngest’s personality. Not surprisingly, the Greek word erotika bears a great resemblance to erótan , the one who asks questions, indicating, perhaps, that the good lover is the one who influences the demand. An example is found in the abundant references and philosophical, theological and literary readings of authors such as Hölderlin , Immanuel Kant , Hegel , Schelling , Saint Paul, Knut Hamsum, Kafka , Adalbert Stifter and Thomas Mann among many others.
Expressly, Heidegger confesses that he wishes “to have a cure ( Sorge ) that nothing in you breaks.” This care of the loved one is intensified when he receives from Arendt an autobiographical text, entitled Shadows, in which the fragility of the young woman and a deep melancholic residue are revealed , of that black bile that, according to Aristotle, only extraordinary souls possess. From that moment on, the care is focused on the work of clearing the soul’s folds of the disciple, without forgetting, in that interpretation of the light so Heideggerian, that “There are only ‘shadows’ where the sun shines”. To the continuous greetings and farewells under the imperative of “rejoice”, the observation, almost phenomenological, of the loved object is added, capturing the details that indicate the passage from the shadows to the light: “You have another expression on your face – already what I noticed in the class – and I was stunned by amazement ”. And, thus, the transforming love that the teacher exercises in the disciple aspires to reveal the true being, the one that manifests itself in the fullness of its act according to the interpretation of Saint Augustine : “Amo means volo, ut sisSaint Augustine says at one point: I love you – I want you to be what you are ”. It may be that, due to this experience in his own person, Arendt ends up writing his doctoral thesis on the concept of love in the bishop of Hippo.
It happened, however, that the care of the other took precedence over the care of himself ( Selbstsorge ) and, over the erotic passion, the intellectual . Like a “logger in the alpine forest”, Heidegger flees on numerous occasions to the mountains in search of calm and inspiration , chasing those distant blows of a thought that makes its way through the clearings. He only asks the abandoned beloved to be patient: “I have forgotten you – not out of indifference or because certain external circumstances had intruded, but because I had to forget you and I will forget you every time I take the path of last and concentrated work. It is not a matter of days or hours, but a process that is prepared for weeks and months and then remits ”.
With great certainty it was the loss of that inner peace that requires all waiting that prompted Arendt to leave the teacher to continue his studies , first in Freiburg with Edmund Husserl and later in Heidelberg with Karl Jaspers .
Of the many letters that make up the epistolary of Arendt and Heidegger, there is one that we did not find, although it is the most sought after. And it is the one in which she asks him about his alleged affiliation with National Socialism . There is, however, the ambiguous answer that it offers, initially denying what ends up being confirmed as an obvious case of intellectual anti-Semitism:
To clarify my attitude towards the Jews, the following facts suffice. […] Whoever can come to see me monthly to report an important work in progress (which is neither a thesis project nor a qualification project), is another Jew. Whoever sent me an extensive paper a few weeks ago for urgent review is Jewish. The two fellows from the care community whose appointment I have secured in the last three semesters are Jewish. Whoever receives a scholarship to Rome through me is a Jew. Whoever wants to call it “raging anti-Semitism”, do it. Otherwise I am as anti-Semitic on university issues today as I was ten years ago and in Marburg, where I even counted for this anti-Semitism with the support of Jacobsthal and Friedländer. This has nothing to do with personal relationships with Jews (eg Husserl, Misch, Cassirer and others). And even less can affect the relationship with you.
Reading some letters that, had they been written by other people, would only serve as a witness to a love story, have become a matter of understanding over time. In them, however, nothing is revealed to the curious reader. Nothing is said about the forgiveness that Hans Jonas hints at in his Memoirs in response to how it was possible for someone like Arendt to unconditionally resume the relationship with Heidegger, whom he came to consider a “potential murderer” for signing as rector the document that prevented Husserl from entering the University of Freiburg. However, although it is not expressly mentioned, it can be intuited in each of the lines written by Arendtfrom 1950 on, the presence of that “understanding heart” that in Essays of understanding is defined as the essential requirement to reconcile with a reality that at first glance seems unacceptable. This reconciliation does not allow the concealment or remission of the fault, but simply creates the right framework to make peace with things “as they are”. The cause was not, as Hans Jonas supposed, love for the teacher. It was, above all, love of the world .
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