Saturday, March 01, 2014

Auden on Arendt

William Auden:

Hannah Arendt, in Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963), was offensively wrong about the “banality of evil,” because evil is something monstrous, exotic, and inhuman. The acts and thoughts of a good citizen, in this view, can be banal, not those of a dictator or his agents.
Auden stated a view like Arendt’s as early as 1939, in his poem “Herman Melville”:

Evil is unspectacular and always human,
And shares our bed and eats at our own table.

He later quoted Simone Weil’s pensée on the same theme, written around the same time: “Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring.”



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