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Inconceivable EffectsEthics through Twentieth-Century German Literature, Thought, and Film$
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Martin Blumenthal-Barby

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780801478123

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801478123.001.0001

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Why Does Hannah Arendt Lie?

Why Does Hannah Arendt Lie?

Or the Vicissitudes of Imagination

(p.40) 2 Why Does Hannah Arendt Lie?
Inconceivable Effects

Martin Blumenthal-Barby

Cornell University Press

This chapter shows how Hannah Arendt responds with the term “storytelling” when asked about what she does. According to her essay “Truth and Politics,” the storyteller confronts the seeming arbitrariness of the facts presented, constructing certain configurations of basic data that eventually transcend the “meaning” of events. The writer and the historian share this task of bestowing meaning—the art of interpretation. This act of transfiguration is what distinguishes Arendt’s historiography from the positivistic approach she criticizes. Restrained by the double bind of seeking to interpret events to bestow meaning while upholding the imperative of telling the truth, Arendt, along with other fiction writers, faces the same accusation: fiction authors are liars; and truth is constantly expected from them. Faced with such a difficult demand, the chapter shows the justification in the art of lying.

Keywords:   Hannah Arendt, storytelling, Truth and Politics, interpretation, historiography, fiction authors, art of lying

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