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The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt: A Tyranny of Truth

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  920 ratings  ·  180 reviews
For Persepolis and Logicomix fans, a New Yorker cartoonist's page-turning graphic biography of the fascinating Hannah Arendt, the most prominent philosopher of the twentieth century.

One of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth century and a hero of political thought, the largely unsung and often misunderstood Hannah Arendt is best known for her landmark 1951 book on o
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published September 25th 2018 by Bloomsbury Publishing
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Elyse  Walters
Apr 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I received the Advance Reading Copy in the mail from the publisher....
Many thanks to Nicole at Bloomsbury Publishing. I requested a physical copy rather than an ebook given that it’s a graphic biography.
It’s fascinating....and ‘for me’....the best part of this book is how much it opened my eyes to Hannah Arendt. I admit not knowing much about her, and this book was the perfect introduction. But besides learning a great deal, and being really enriching...its chirpy & perky, too. Incredible how m
David Schaafsma
“Whatever I do, I am unable to avert my eyes from the reality of the world around me”—Hannah Arendt

“As fire lives on oxygen, so the fire of totalitarianism lives on untruth”—Hannah Arendt

I absolutely love this comics biography of Arendt, a philosopher who called herself a political theorist, a writer whose work doesn’t fit easily into categories, an activist, and who is/was perhaps best known for her relationship with one of the great philosophers of the twentieth century, Martin Heidegger. As w

what i was hoping to get out of this, and what it seemed like i would get out of this, was a half biography/half philosophical summary/all graphic novel fun bonanza. in some ways, i did get that. but also what i got was way more biography than philosophy, to the point that the philosophy explanations felt rushed and crammed in, and also so so so so many footnotes with tiny text and weird grammar.

it made my head hurt. (both trying to understand huge con
Rod Brown
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
OMG, the name dropping! The first half of the book is less a story of Arendt than a list of every famous person she ever met. Talk about defining a woman by the men in her life! During the second half this slows down a little bit, but the author still seems pretty intent on mentioning every famous person of Jewish descent who lived during the twentieth century, shoehorning in Lou Reed and Jerry Lewis among others in footnotes and cameos, and, sure, I'd read that book if he cared to go all in on ...more
Julie Ehlers
As hard as I try, I cannot see a monster in the glass booth. I see a bore, a careerist former vacuum cleaner salesman spouting empty sales pitches. He's ordinary, which makes his crimes even more horrible than a Frankenstein fantasy.

Arendt was really onto something with the whole "banality of evil" thing.

As far as I can recall, I have no experience with Hannah Arendt's actual writing, and before reading Three Escapes I knew very little about her life, so I can't offer a good opinion on whether t
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I found this very disappointing. Its badly drawn and badly put-together with not enough substance. Her thoughts are given hardly any airing compared to her chain-smoking and sex with Heidegger. Most annoying of all, it's overloaded with footnotes explaining each person or word mentioned. OK, maybe that's helpful when you're introducing some little-known philosopher or painter, but at one point, in 1939, when Poland is invaded, he mentions Hitler and there's a footnote explaining that this is Ado ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
“Arguably the greatest philosopher of the 20th century,” the author suggests, “who renounced philosophy.” So she was like the Bobby Fischer of philosophy hehe.

Hannah Arendt, like the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, was from Koenigsberg, East Prussia. As a child she was precocious. She wanted to “understand everything” so she read all of Kant’s books, as he was “the smartest man ever” and not only the books Kant wrote, but also the books Kant had read. She also became obsessed with the Greek tr
Dec 12, 2018 rated it liked it
This was... interesting.

I enjoyed the art style quite a bit. I read the ARC, which was entirely in black and white, but the final version still takes a fairly minimalist approach to color (some images have splashes of green and brown, but otherwise the book is still B&W). I liked the sketches, the smudges, the messiness of the art.

I have a basic understanding of 20th Century European philosophy, but oh man so much of this still went over my head. And mY GOODNESS the name dropping. I understand
Dec 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-reads
Loved this. I recently read Sabrina - another graphic novel that is on some year's best lists (and Booker long list?) and was really disappointed with the bland drawings and genderless, affectless people and cultural isolation-subject matter. It left me cold. By contrast, Krimstein's book checked off every box when it comes to what I want in a graphic novel: intricate drawings that I may have to linger over to catch nuance; historical significance; philosophical and/or scientific information; fo ...more
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed this and learned some things. Arendt is fascinating, apparently present for many of the 20th century's biggest moments, and this graphic novel is a good intro.
The thing I like best about this book is that it leads me to so many questions, and it has a great list for further reading. It was interesting to learn about Arendt’s work in a context of her as philosopher-first; however, I found the author’s writing to be so-so, and I found a factual error in a footnote (blaming Cecile B. DeMille for Birth of a Nation, which, as far as I know, he was not involved with—maybe the author was thinking of D.W. Griffith). That sounds nit-picky, but I know old movie ...more
Dec 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have long been intrigued with Hannah Arendt even though I only know the barest outlines of her life and philosophy. So when I saw this graphic biography, I jumped on it! In The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt, we learn about Arendt's life in three segments, from her childhood in Germany to her death in the United States. Krimstein shows us how she focused on learning the truth from a very young age and how her philosophy about truth and human nature evolved over the years through her experience ...more
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
-I forgot how much I love graphic novels (or “comics”). Visual mediums are so much easier to absorb and have more room of observation and interpretation (which I imagine arendt would approve of)

-the graphics themselves. Messy and the lines make it look like things are moving. Looks like a storyboard strip for a movie.

-it made me want to be a child philosopher genius prodigy who eats up a ton of books

-I just really appreciated learning about Hannah arendt. What an intriguing person.

-the way diff
What an interesting person. I'd like to learn more. The book has great resources for further study of Arendt's life. recommended for those interested in philosophy and philosophers.
Oct 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I will admit to not really knowing Arendt before picking up this book. I wasn't a huge fan of the scribbly art style, but this graphic bio did exactly what it sets out to do, which is teach the reader a great deal.
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
I think this is my favorite graphic novel
May 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is worse than a comic book/Cliff Notes version of War and Peace. In that sense, at least it gives people who have never heard of Arendt an introduction to Arendt.
I'm not sure how much of Arendt's work the author actually read. He appears to have read the secondary literature, but I doubt he's read "Totalitarianism."
After reading this graphic-novel biography, I was afraid I missed something. I read three on-line book reviews to check myself. The reviews describe it basically as snappy or did
An interesting introduction to Hannah Arendt is what I would like to say about this graphic novel. Honestly though, there are obvious and glaring problems with the story. For one, it's rife with unnecessary namedropping, which distracts from the star of the show: Hannah Arendt! So what that she encountered a bunch of semi-famous men! It is of no further importance to the story, and Arendt herself has done more than enough to not be defined by the people she meets.

Secondly, it's just a bit of a m
Aug 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The philosopher and writer Hannah Arendt is portrayed in this graphic biography with verve, passion, intellect, and power. Her life and "three escapes" run through some of the most climactic events of the last 100 years, and her fierce, free-thinking shines. This book will definitely send me on a trajectory of more works by and about Arendt. Fascinating!
Tammy Matthews
Dec 08, 2018 rated it liked it
I feel like I just had an eminent female thinker’s biography mansplained to me. Lay off the footnotes, my man.
Mar 29, 2019 rated it liked it
I liked but not loved this biography. My favorite aspect in this book was the pacing and the plotting of the story. It gathers momentum and finishes triumphantly. The device of the three escapes works very well as a frame. But I found the art problematic, in that I found it really sloppy that the same drawing is utilized repeatedly, just cut and paste into another panel, maybe the drawing is mirrored or re-sized, but there's no love for cartooning here. I love different line stroke widths, but w ...more
Sep 11, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 05, 2019 rated it liked it
“The only thing free about your fellow French is they’ll freely hand you over to the Nazis.”

There are some obvious comparisons to be made between Arendt and Rosa Luxemburg, two highly intelligent, bold and exceptional Jewish women who were born and grew up in Eastern Europe. Both would never shy away from controversy and both would go onto make a name for themselves creating a huge impact well beyond their inauspicious beginnings.

This has its funny moments, and certainly provides some thorough i
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“Whatever I do, I am unable to avert my eyes from the reality of the world around me”—Hannah Arendt

I wandered into a bookshop this weekend and surrendered to my browsing, knowing that if there was a book for me to read, it would make itself known. Ken Krimstein's book sang out.

This was the right book for me in these dark days.
Hannah Arendt, Thinker and truth sayer. BRILLIANT woman.
I am a fan.

This is a graphic novel that takes us through Arendt's life history and her devotion to THINKING; her es
James Mccloskey
Jun 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Krimstein does a fabulous job at portraying the complexities of one of the 20th century's great thinkers. I'll let the lack of index, table of contents, and incomplete scholarly citations pass and admit to finding a gem for those who agree that "to be alive and to think are the same thing." I appreciated the choice, or lack of, color because the pictures helped me visualize the story line. Several reviewers comment negatively on the footnotes, the "unnecessary namedropping," and seeming excessiv ...more
Christina Saarinen
Sep 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
I am a person who generally likes footnotes, but this is the kind of book that gives footnotes a bad name. There is a footnote identifying Hitler on a panel with a classically recognizable image of Hitler where the text is about Hitler. There is a footnote explaining who Stalin was. There is a footnote about Groucho Marx, who isn’t consequential to the book. There is a footnote telling you “tuchus” means butt in Yiddish. These are only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of footnotes that only add t ...more
I struggled a bit in the philosophical weeds here, but not so much that I didn't enjoy this graphic biography of Arendt. She is rendered in green against a grayscale background of about a thousand illustrious thinkers and persons, many with German and/or Jewish names, and several who have more than one name. So Hannah stands out and is easy to follow even though the people around her are much more difficult to distinguish. The footnotes help.

Her philosophical journey was not uninteresting, but h
Dakota Morgan
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt is a needlessly tough, largely fascinating read. Needlessly tough because the art and format makes it difficult to follow the actual flow of Arendt's life. Largely fascinating because, damn it, Arendt was cool! She lived a wild life, had grand ideas, and worked with deeply interesting people. One of the ways in which The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt shines is in it's footnote biographies of key figures Arendt encountered. I feel like I have a better grasp of ...more
Barbara McEwen
I went into this not knowing about this fascinating woman. She is strong and smart and her life is quite interesting. I am not sure I know a lot about her beliefs now though, this book is sort of a teaser or primer. As other reviewers note, there is a lot of name dropping, and it does take away from Hannah's story a bit, but I mean, what a time. Part of her life is having pastries with famous people shooting the shit. I liked the illustrations but didn't love them. I did enjoy all the splashes o ...more
Jessica Rosner
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I feel everyone should read a little something about Hanna Arendt, one of the greatest philosophers and thinkers of all time.
Reading philosophy is not easy, even in a graphic bio, but it’s a nice place to start.
This book has a LOT of footnotes. I will re-read it and dip my toes into other books by and about her generously noted and described by the author at the end of his books.
The sketchy un-fussy art work is a perfect compliment to the rich, humanizing and sometimes complicated text. It’s al
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KEN KRIMSTEINS cartoons have been published in the New Yorker, Punch, National Lampoon, the Wall Street Journal, Narrative, three of S. Grosss cartoon anthologies, King Features The New Breed syndicated panel, Cosmopolitan, Science, Psychology Today, and more. He has written for New York Observers New Yorkers Diary and has published pieces on humor websites, including McSweeneys Internet Tendency, ...more

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“From beyond the grave,
Hannah says that although living in the world of plurality and natality is no picnic, if we want to avoid Auschwitz or the Gulag or Stonewall or Pol Pot or Attica or ISIS, we as a species have no choice but to embrace it and endure it.

In other words, there is no single answer, no single bullet of understanding to guide us, just a glorious neverending mess. The neverending mess of true human freedom.”
“For me, in the ashes, it’s not enough to describe what happened, but to focus unforgivingly on what actually happened, to provide a road map, a game plan for how hell happens, not just in Nazi Germany, but in Stalin’s Russia too.
Not surprisingly, since this is a new phenomenon, there is no word to describe it. So I have to make one up. The new force unleashed on the world is...Totalitarianism.
As fire lives on oxygen, the oxygen of totalitarianism is untruth.
Before totalitarian leaders can fit reality to their lies, their message is an unrelenting contempt for facts. They live by the belief that fact depends entirely on the power of the man who makes it up.”
More quotes…