One Last Genius
By examining Adorno's life through a circle of modernist companions who ended up dispersed all over the world, Detlev Claussen raises the question of whether biography can be written at all under the broken conditions of modernity. In his descriptions of German-Jewish lives, Claussen shows the complexities of living in the shadow of Auschwitz, and undermines the crude myths and interpretations that have sometimes plagued scholarship of Adorno and his milieu. -- Lydia Goehr, Columbia University Writing as a sympathetic admirer rather than as an outsider or critic, Claussen moves the reader through his narrative the way a good novelist does. He has clearly mastered Adorno's difficult writings and is wonderfully in control of his subject's intellectual and personal milieu. His prose is lively and unburdened by technical jargon. Even for a veteran Adorno observer, this remarkable book contains many new findings and revisions of conventional wisdom. -- Martin Jay, University of California, Berkeley This elegant translation of Claussen's 2003 biography of his teacher provides the first glimpse of the depth of Adorno's life and thought. In masterful strokes, Claussen traces Adorno's life and work from his middle-class Jewish childhood in Frankfurt and Vienna and his university work on Kierkegaard to his friendships with Walter Benjamin and Thomas Mann, among others, and his later intellectual partnership with Horkheimer. Weaving in colorful excerpts of Adorno's writings, Claussen demonstrates the centrality of music and aesthetics to the philosopher and offers fresh insights into his life. Thanks to its depth and thoroughness, this lovingly crafted study will most certainly become the definitive portrait of Adorno, and it is also a captivating portrait of the incredibly shifting times, from Weimar to the Nazi regime, through which Adorno passed. * Publishers Weekly (starred review) * Claussen, a student of Adorno's, has written what has been hailed as among the best books on its famously recalcitrant subject. -- Brian Sholis * Bookforum * Claussen is a journalist as well as an academic, and his skill at revealing the narrative story of a life, along with the theoretical underpinnings both influencing and influenced by that life, demonstrates the interweaving possible between his own two disciplines...Claussen chooses to reveal the individual by placing him within a foreground of his intellectual and cultural peers, who included Walter Benjamin, Thomas Mann, Max Horkheimer, and Bertolt Brecht, a cohort forced by the 20th century's political and social upheavals to live peripatetic lives. Richly detailed and elegantly translated. -- Francisca Goldsmith * Library Journal * Fascinating...The best thing about Mr. Claussen's book is the way it helps us to understand the extremities of Adorno's experience, which gave rise to such hope and such despair. -- Adam Kirsch * New York Sun * Detlev Claussen's biography of Adorno is a remarkable achievement. Central to the success of this book is the fact that its author is not solely a biographer but is also a distinguished sociologist and social theorist, and he is able to identify and respond to each of the difficulties that Adorno poses...In its entirety, this is a brilliant book that movingly disentangles and pieces together highly complex relations of personal, historical, and intellectual life. It is difficult to imagine how biography could be more successful in examining theoretical existence or how it could more accurately elucidate thought in so many of its formative dimensions. -- Chris Thornhill * Times Higher Education Supplement * A former student of Adorno's, Mr. Claussen is on intimate terms with the late master's work, especially his correspondence with compatriots such as Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht and Walter Benjamin. -- Thomas Meaney * Wall Street Journal * [A] magisterial biography...As a student of Adorno&a
Detlev Claussen is a journalist and Professor Emeritus of Social Theory, Culture, and Sociology at Leibniz Universitt Hannover. Rodney Livingstone is Professor Emeritus in German Studies at the University of Southampton. He is well known as a translator of books by Walter Benjamin, Theodor W. Adorno, and Max Weber, among others.
List of Illustrations How to Read This Book 1. Instead of an Overture: No Heirs 2. The House in Schoene Aussicht: A Frankfurt Childhood around 1910 3. From Teddie Wiesengrund to Dr. Wiesengrund-Adorno 4. Adorno as "Non-identical" Man 5. Transitions Bertolt Brecht: "To Those Who Come after Us" Theodor W. Adorno: "Out of the Firing Line" Hanns Eisler, the Non-identical Brother Fritz Lang, the American Friend 6. Frankfurt Transfer 7. Adorno as "Identical" Man 8. The Palimpsest of Life Appendix: Letters Theodor W. Adorno to Ernst Bloch, 26 July 1962 Max Horkheimer to Theodor W. Adorno, 27 September 1958 Theodor W. Adorno to Max Horkheimer, 14 February 1965 Theodor W. Adorno to Claus Behncke, 21 February 1964 Max Horkheimer to Otto O. Herz, 1 September 1969 Notes Sources Acknowledgments Index