Tag Archives: Hannah Arendt

Thoughts on “The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt” by Ken Krimstein

So a while back, I said that I was going to be changing the format of the blog and just posting quotes instead of sharing my thoughts. Well, as you have likely surmised, I have gone back to my original format. There were a couple reasons why I went full circle:

  • I discovered that posting quotes regularly did not really take that much less time; in fact, I think I spent even more time, since I felt compelled to post more often.
  • My daughter was all excited because she Googled something by Umberto Eco and one of my blog posts was the top Google search result.

Anyway, I figure I will write when I can, and not sweat it if I get too busy to write. That said, my thoughts on this book.

I came across this at a community center where there was a table of free books (a dangerous thing for a bibliophile). Most of the books were of no interest to me, but this one immediately caught my attention. While in college, I had read Hannah Arendt’s masterpiece of political theory, The Origins of Totalitarianism. The book was one of those that left a strong and lasting impact on me. I cannot tell you how many times I have observed the behaviors of political leaders and listened to their words, then thought back to Arendt’s book. Essentially, she wrote the book on totalitarianism. The term did not exist until she coined it.

The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt is a biographical graphic novel. It provides a witty overview of Arendt’s life, how she fled Europe during World War II, established herself as a political theorist and philosopher, and eventually went on to become the first woman to be appointed full professor at Princeton University.

While most of the book tells the story of Ms. Arendt’s life, it does briefly summarize some of her political ideas.

As fire lives on oxygen, the oxygen of totalitarianism is untruth. Before totalitarian leaders can fit reality to their lies, their message is an unreeling contempt for facts. They live by the belief that fact depends entirely on the power of the man who makes it up.

(p. 167)

The graphic novel quotes Arendt as saying, “Whatever I do, I am simply unable to avert my eyes from the reality of the world around me.” (p. 126) I feel the same way. It is impossible to ignore what I see going on in the world. And if you ever read The Origins of Totalitarianism, you will also not be able to look at the behaviors of political leaders the same way again.

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to share in my musings. I hope you find these posts interesting. If so, please let me know. As long as there is interest, I will do my best to keep writing.


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Intelligent Dialogue

All this talk is useless blather, worse than gibberish. But at least I am able to find one intelligent, truth-telling person to talk to, to argue with sensibly, to dialogue with. Myself.

Ken Krimstein. The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt

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A Stroll Around Paris

… and then, after I left the Louvre, the American tourists buying bushels of postcards of the Mona Lisa, I followed my nose down a web of back alleys and I saw it, bricks and planks, which I tore down with my bare hands: what signaled the find was an 1832 handbill for a wild beast show, so I knew, through that portal the past would spread her loins, a vestal virgin, and when the shroud collapsed, the rusted ruins of a mouldering arcade embraced me – a broken cat’s eye marble, the chipped arm of a porcelain doll, its milky glaze supple to the touch, physical evidence of time, the past gushing ahead of the non-existent future, an electric buzz to rival hashish or cocaine or opium, a true phantasmagoria of the space that echoes the passion of the gambler, the narcotic continuous present.

Ken Krimstein. The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt


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Sounds of the End of the World

Stupidity. Noise. A modern Babel. The sounds of the end of the world.

Ken Krimstein. The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt

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Totalitarianism in “Catching Fire”

This book is a very fast read. It was so engaging that it was difficult to put it down. I found myself crawling out of bed at 4:00 am to get some reading in before the day started and work began dominating my mental energy.

In case you don’t know already, Catching Fire is the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy written by Suzanne Collins. Personally, I enjoyed this book better that the first one. Maybe it was because I was already invested in the characters and the story, but I think it was also the way that the book examines totalitarian government and how a totalitarian regime controls the masses.

While I was in college, I took an interdisciplinary honors seminar that had an emphasis on totalitarian government, and one of the books that made a lasting impression on me was Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt. The book goes into detail on the social climate that gives rise to totalitarian regimes, how they gain power, and the methods they use to spread misinformation and control the masses. It’s a fascinating book and I have never looked at government and media the same since.

The Capitol in Chasing Fire is the classic totalitarian government. It uses fear and extreme forms of public punishment to control the masses. Control of resources keeps individuals weak and focused on basic survival. Finally, and most important, is media control. The government controls what images and what information is presented to the people. Never underestimate the power of the media when it comes to manipulating people.

I love that this book introduces the younger generation of readers to the threat of totalitarianism. Let’s face it, totalitarian governments still exist today, and in many countries, the sociopolitical climate is ripe for the rise of a tyrannical regime. Large groups of people are embracing the fear that is spread via media and seem willing to accept the oppression of those they fear in order to gain a sense of security. Thankfully, there are still people out there who recognize the threat and can express the dangers in a way that motivates people to stand up and face these issues. I see these brave individuals embodied in the character of Peeta:

He can use words. He obliterated the rest of the field in both interviews. And maybe it’s because of that underlying goodness that he can move a crowd–no, a country–to his side with the turn of a simple sentence. (p. 235)

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