Starting with his own several memoirs, Martin Heidegger’s biography has been inscribed in a large number of unreliable texts—fitting, it has been suggested, for his objections to the more stable traditional conception of truth. Elżbieta Ettinger now adds to these accounts her elusive rehearsal of the affair between Heidegger and Hannah Arendt—a relationship generally known as having occurred but with its features heavily veiled, and now, even with the correspondence between the two that Ettinger brings to light, not much clearer in detail or less perplexing in character.[1]

The ingredients for high drama in that relationship are unmistakable: passion, intellect, and a half-century of unusual historical crisis. Heidegger and Arendt would die only months apart (1975–76), but it is the beginning of the relationship that has been more difficult to get at, and...

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