Why Jeanne Hersch Matters

Swiss political and moral thinker Jeanne Hersch was, like Hannah Arendt, a student of the great philosopher Karl Jaspers. Her book about the conflict between ideology and reality remains one of the most profound attempts to deconstruct the ideological follies of modern times. I first heard Jeanne Hersch’s name in Radio Free Europe broadcasts by Monica Lovinescu, the indomitable anti-totalitarian cultural critic. When she passed away in June 2010, Czeslaw Milosz wrote a tribute to Jeanne Hersch, his intellectual soulmate, in which he summed up what he learned from her. Among other truly important things, he found out “that in our lives we should not succumb to despair because of our errors and our sins, for the past is never dosed down and receives the meaning we give it by our subsequent acts.” Milosz died in Cracow four years later, in August 2004.

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