Few essays by Hannah Arendt are as controversial as her 1959 critique of the legally forced integration of black students. While Arendt dismissed the objections of her liberal friends at the time, she - the theorist of freedom - wrote to the African-American writer Ralph Ellison in 1965 that she had read his replication of her remarks at the time, had not yet considered the "naked violence" and had only now understood his "ideal of sacrifice." What sacrifice was this about? About what blindnesses? And what does this episode tell us about the time and about Hannah Arendt's work? Marie Luise Knott unfolds an impressive mosaic of thoughts, images and reflections on the background of Arendt's letters and thus opens a view into the abyss of the history of the past century. The distance and closeness of African American and Jewish experiences can be experienced through the example of these two public figures who were worlds apart, even though they lived just a number's turn away on the same street. Both could look from their windows onto the same river, which just around the corner flows into the sea over which both blacks and Jews once entered the country, albeit under contrasting conditions.
Tractatus Essay Prize 2022
German pdf available
English sample available
Marie Luise Knott is a journalist, translator, and author living in Berlin. In 1995 she founded the German edition of Le Monde diplomatique and has been its editor-in-chief for the past eleven years. She has written numerous works on art and literature, as well as several important studies of Hannah Arendt.
By the same author(s)
"Most of the books seek either to condemn or to defend Hannah Arendt. Knott has written, instead, a nuanced and powerful essay that aims to understand the German-Jewish-stateless refugee and her lifelong engagement with the question of race, all through the lens of Arendt's short unanswered letter to Ralph Ellison." Roger Berkowitz