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markk

markk

Reading progress update: I've read 135 out of 312 pages.

Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil - Hannah Arendt

So yesterday afternoon I posted on Facebook a picture of this book on the Internet along with the adult beverage I was imbibing while I was reading it. It prompted this response from one of my friends:

 

This response bothered me more than I expected. I question whether my friend has even read the book, given that, while famous for her argument about "the banality of evil" (the articulation of which I haven't gotten to yet), it's based primarily on her reporting of Eichmann's trial, which is valuable irrespective of the conclusions she drew from it. By contrast, Stangneth's book relies on audio recordings of interviews with Eichmann in the 1950s by a Nazi journalist, to which Arendt didn't have full access. From everything I have read, the latter book is less of an "evisceration" of Arendt's argument than a rebuttal of some aspects of it -- and as I read Arendt's book I'm coming to appreciate the degree to which some of the claims attributed to her book (such as the supposed passivity of the Jews in the face of Nazi detainment) are overstated and ignore some of the nuance Arendt provides within the text.

If all this leads you to conclude that I am finding Arendt's book a rewarding read you would be correct, as I find her moral dissection of Eichmann's defense absolutely amazing. And while I grant that it's not a perfect book, it is interesting how many of her arguments about what leads people to evil actions endure even today with much less controversy than what her work continues to generate.