Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy: An Unlikely Friendship?
My talk on Saturday, August 29, 3:30pm – 5pm, at the Palms-Rancho Park Library in Los Angeles, is inspired by Carol Brightman’s remarkable book Between Friends – The Correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Mary Mc Carthy, which was published in 1995 by Harcourt Brace. Their written dialogue began in 1949 after a rocky start and ended with Hannah Arendt’s death in 1975. Brightman describes their correspondence as “an epistolary romance” because it framed the tale of a passionate friendship that was improbable on the face of it.
The two women first met at a party in New York in 1945, where Mary McCarthy made an offhand remark that evening, saying that she almost felt sorry for Hitler in that he seemed to want the French citizens of occupied France to like him.
The remark outraged Hannah Arendt, A German-born Jew. “How can you say such a thing in front of me – a victim of Hitler, a person who has been in a concentration camp.”
Three years later they met on a subway platform where Arendt approached McCarthy saying, “Let’s end this nonsense. We think so much alike.” McCarthy apologized for her Hitler remark and Arendt admitted she had never been in a concentration camp, only in an internment camp in France.
Thus was the beginning of an emotionally and intellectually sustaining life-long epistolary friendship (1949-1975) between an American orphaned at 6 and a European uprooted by Fascism, that ended with the death of Arendt of a heart attack in December 1975.
The Palms-Rancho Park Library is located at 2920 Overland Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90064. This event is free.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Barbara Kraft is the author of Anais Nin: The Last Days (2013) and The Restless Spirit: Journal of a Gemini: The latter was published in 1976 with a preface by Anaïs Nin, and laudatory comment by the late Carlos Baker, definitive biographer of Ernest Hemingway and Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature at Princeton. Kraft has also written several radio plays including a play on the legendary muse of William Butler Yeats, Maud Gonne. The play won an Ohio State Award as “an outstanding example of original radio drama as written and directed by KPFK’s Barbara Kraft.” Kraft has written several libretti including The Dream Tunnel: A Musical Journey through America, commissioned and performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra (with Kraft as narrator) for the 1976 Bicentennial. The Los Angeles Times wrote of her libretto for The Innocents: The Witch Trial at Salem “….Barbara Kraft gives vivid, incantatory fragments to vocal quartets of Magistrates, Clergy, two groups of Innocents and a chorus representing the Populace. Sections of raucous, conflicting (but tightly written) cries portrayed a community beset by hysteria.” A former reporter for Time, and contributor to Washington Post, People, USA Today, and Architectural Digest, Kraft’s work has appeared in The Hudson Review, Michigan Quarterly, Canadian Theatre Review and Columbia Magazine, et al; and among the many radio programs she has hosted and produced is Transforming OC, a two-part documentary for KCRW (the award winning Santa Monica-based NPR station) on the 2006 opening of the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. Kraft is a Registered Reader at the Huntington Library in San Marino and lives and writes in Los Angeles, California.