Daniel Maier-Katkin is a scholar, and it shows. He is riveting about Hannah Arendt’s ideas and the trouble they brought her, and provides a clear and useful summary of the debate about Heidegger. But about the relationship between the two – their love affair before the war, and their reconciliation and friendship after – he is clumsy and naive. Perhaps the publishers wanted something more than an intellectual biography. He should have resisted.
On the whole he manages to avoid anachronistic comments about the affair in 1925, when Heidegger was a 35-year-old married professor and Arendt his eighteen-year-old student. But he enthrones his shock in one abstract, leaden line (‘An adulterous relationship between an older professor and a young student is