Aug 2004 Journal

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Ogling the student body

A trivial story that unfolded earlier in the year on the other side of the Atlantic probably passed many of our readers by. It concerned two Jewish-American celebrities, the fortyish feminist Naomi Wolf and her one-time university teacher, the septuagenarian Harold Bloom. Wolf revealed that 20 years previously Bloom had met her à deux ostensibly to discuss literature, but instead had attempted to grope her, and made her nauseous.

This virtual non-event generated much comment in the British press, and among the dross I found a small nugget of gold. The JC's Brian Viner recounted that Albert Einstein had allegedly once enjoyed a tryst in a hotel room with Marilyn Monroe. She had asked him to explain his theory of relativity to her, and he had reportedly replied: 'I never go that far on a first date!'

Einstein and Monroe - perfection of mind and of body - represent one type of contrasts. An equally ill-matched pair were the pro-Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger and his PhD student in Weimar days, the Jewess Hannah Arendt. When news of their affaire leaked out, the university authorities transferred Arendt to the supervision of another philosopher, Karl Jaspers.

After Hitler's accession to power Heidegger became rector of Freiburg University (in which capacity he barred his own teacher, the Jew Edmund Husserl, from the campus). Arendt emigrated to the USA, where, in the course of a glittering academic career, she achieved widespread fame with The Origins of Totalitarianism and Eichmann in Jerusalem.

On her first postwar visit to Germany she - unbelievably - arranged another tryst with the execrable Heidegger. This duly took place, but their reunion was drained of romance by Frau Heidegger's insistence that she be present in the room with the two superannuated lovers.
Richard Grunberger

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