Friday, 23 March 2007


So I bought this book about the relationship between Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger because it was on sale in Readings, and it turns out to be just like trashy celebrity gossip for academics, with a bit of Gothic romance thrown in:

The adult Arendt, the preeminent scholar, would indeed appear to the world self-confident, even imperious. But never would she appear so to Heidegger.

The first-year student found in Heidegger a lover, friend, teacher, and protector. He promised to love her forever, to help and guide her. Carried away by his seductive declarations, she let down her defenses as never before...

When they met, the thirty-five-year-old Heidegger, married and the father of two young sons, was finishing the manuscript of
Being and Time, a book that would put him in the ranks of the most prominent philosophers of the twentieth century. From their correspondence it is clear that he fell in love with his young student from their earliest meetings in his classroom. And though his passion subsided as time went on, his need to be her idol did not. Until he met Hannah, Heidegger - strict, rigid, hard-working, the son of devout Catholic peasants - seems to have known little of genuine passion, of a physical and spiritual bond. It is clear from Heidegger's letters to Arendt that she showed him how to love ardently and not feel it a sin. He needed her in order to breathe fully and deeply, to enjoy being alive.

(Elzbieta Ettinger, Hannah Arendt/Martin Heidegger [Yale University Press, 1995], p.3)

In other news, Cicero has now left Thessalonica. He was going to go to Epirus, but Plancius wouldn't let him (honest), so now he's at Dyrrachium, where the people are very keen on him. He is no longer so much talking about how nothing this bad has ever happened to anyone in the history of the world before, but has instead started saying things like You could have saved me from all this, Atticus - but no, no, I'm not blaming you, it's all my fault for thinking that you loved me as much as I wanted you to. Trust is such a terrible burden to place on a man ::looks sad::.


Una said...

Wow, it sounds all breathless and gushy. If he is poor and she is posh, I'm going to be forced to read it.

In my world, Pompey just got murdered. And I finished reading my little source book of essays and documents about Spartacus and the Slave Wars, with questions at the back, like I'm doing history all over again.

Az said...

Talking about Cicero reminds me of a question I've been wanting to ask you for what seems like ages. What do you think of Rome the miniseries? I think it's splendidly soap opera-esque, but have no idea of the historical 'reliability' (or if they're doing something quite histrionic to counter that expectation of authenticity.)

Ika said...

Una - it's terrifically breathless and gushy (it took me a while to figure out you meant the Arendt/Heidegger, though, because frankly Cicero is kind of breathless and gushy too, which is shattering my illusions: when was this period when men didn't talk about their feelings?*). I'll pass it on to you when I've finished it, if you like (and if you give me your NC address).

Ee! Pompey has been murdered! I'd tell you what Lucan has to say about that, but it's 335 lines of hexameter.

Az - ironically, Una is probably a better person to ask about Rome than me, because I only watched the first couple of episodes. Most of the classicists I know are curiously indifferent to it - I mean, you can usually start a conversation about Brad Pitt's Troy at a classics event, but Rome just seems not to be being watched. In my case, that's partly because I have a very specific and not at all scholarly investment in a slightly later period of Roman history, which crystallized from reading The Sandman, Antony and Cleopatra and the Aeneid simultaneously when I was a sixth-former, and the miniseries has a very different version of events. The other reason is that I don't know if I believe in history - I mean, toft got me into Cicero in the first place, through her excitement over the narrative and the people, but I don't have the same kind of excitement. I guess, thinking about it, literature works better for me as a site of otherness than history - I mean, I can see where Rome is playing on the same structures of same/different, recognizable/reconfigured,** as, say, Derek Walcott's Omeros, but there's too much of an illusion of transparency inherent in the genre of 'history' for it to be as interesting to me. (That's not just because it's telly and low-culture, either - I'm having a similar difficulty with Cicero's letters. I have to literarize them before they become interesting to me.)

But! I might completely change my mind*** - I'm eventually going to get hold of the DVDs and watch them all from the start, because it's frankly a bit embarrassing being a person who writes on Rome and on pop culture and on classical reception and hasn't seen Rome.

*Not the 50s - I've been in a car listening to about 300km of 50s pop music, most of which is appears to be about boys crying.

** you know, historical characters 'with loves and hates and passions just like mine, but on the other hand occasionally bathing in the blood of slaughtered oxen', as Morrissey nearly wrote.

***I originally wrote 'mine' there and was just smiling to myself about the Freudian slip - I OWN MY OWN THOUGHTS - while I corrected it. Then I saw I'd corrected it to 'minx'. I have no idea what that's about.

Una said...

I would love to read the Arendt/Heidegger when you're done -I'll send you my NC address once I have it (i.e. when I arrive, although I think M. should tie it around my neck in case I get lost at Gatwick or something). Also it's possible that we might be able to arrange an emergency Doctor Who supply for you (depending on our success this weekend at finding Certain Technical Devices Of Which I Have No Real Understanding).

Una said...

PS, on Rome - if I haven't bored you to death on the subject yet - yes, you must, and I can supply the DVDs in manner of proper fandom crack dealer. My plan for my first two days in North Carolina is to watch the entire second season courtesy of HBO On Demand.