Tom Stern

Rooms with a View

Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School

By

Verso 440pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

In 1848, the wave of political uprisings taking place across Europe reached the Frankfurt street where the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer was living, comfortably, off money from his father’s shipping business. Schopenhauer thought that every human life was one of misery and suffering. There was no hope for fulfilment from wealth, health, love or politics. A stable life spent in contemplation of good art could provide knowledge and occasional respite, but it changed nothing. Faced with the tumult below, Schopenhauer did the only sensible thing: he invited Austrian troops in so that they could shoot down at the rebels from his windows. The Marxist philosopher Georg Lukács later described Schopenhauer as the first resident of what he mockingly called the ‘Grand Hotel Abyss’, a ‘beautiful hotel, equipped with every comfort, on the edge of an abyss, of nothingness, of absurdity. And the daily contemplation of the abyss between excellent meals or artistic entertainments, can only heighten the enjoyment of the subtle comforts offered.’ By the 1960s, he claimed, Theodor Adorno had also taken a room. 

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Whom did Picasso label a 'bristly pig'? Read Rosalind P Blakesley's review of The Collector by Natalya Semenova to… ,
    • Alexandra Gajda on Anna Beer's new biography, Patriot or Traitor: The Life and Death of Sir Walter Ralegh ,
    • Mark Lawson reviews @jonathancoe's Middle England - The Rotters' Club for our Brexit age. ,
    • 'Behind every book that is published lies ... a haunted landscape, populated by the ghosts of things written and ex… ,
    • 'We once more live in a great age of dragon invention' Here's Tom Shippey on Martin Arnold's The Dragon ,
    • RT : Man at the q&a part of the book panel: Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't s… ,
    • Here's @epkaufm's Whiteshift, reviewed in this month's magazine by ,