Adorno : a political biography /

Main Author: Jäger, Lorenz.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New Haven, Conn. ; London : Yale University Press, 2004.
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Review by Choice Review

Jager's biography is a highly readable account of the life of the German philosopher Theodor Adorno. In an era of "doorstop" biographies, Jager (editor, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) has written a book that is refreshingly just a little over 200 pages. Yet in those pages, he manages to cover a great deal of territory. Jager moves through Adorno's life and carefully places it in its intellectual and political context. There are, for instance, informative (and wonderfully gossipy) accounts of Adorno's relationships with people such as Alban Berg, Thomas Mann, and Walter Benjamin. This is not an exhaustive biography, nor does it seek to explicate Adorno's notoriously complex and multidisciplinary work. These aspects, however, constitute the virtues of Jager's book. It is clear, informative, and readable. This is a biography one could recommend to students or colleagues in the expectation that they might actually read it. The one criticism that could be made is the book's tendency to portray Adorno in a somewhat unflattering light. It seems that becoming disillusioned with a subject is an occupational hazard of the biographer. Jager's biography nonetheless remains useful and informative. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above; general readers. S. Barnett Central Connecticut State University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

A co-founder of the so-called Frankfurt School of philosophy, Theodor Wiesengrund-Adorno (1903?1969) produced critiques of art and culture that have pointed the way for post-Holocaust, post-Marxist thinkers of all stripes. Particularly influential were his works Dialectic of Enlightenment (written with Max Horkheimer in 1944) and the brilliantly aphoristic Minima Moralia. In this concise biography, Jager, an editor at the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, focuses on the people, ideas and institutions through which Adorno constructed his politically oriented critique of modern culture and society. Raised in a middle-class family, Adorno first entertained the idea of being a musician but turned to philosophy after WWI. He especially favored the aesthetics and existentialism of Kierkegaard (on whom he wrote his dissertation) and the phenomenology of Husserl. With the advent of National Socialism in Germany, Adorno fled to the U.S. for political reasons, and because his father had Jewish roots. Jager provides tart glimpses of Adorno?s relationships with Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, Thomas Mann and Bertolt Brecht, among others, and of the power relations within his main intellectual home, the Institute for Social Research. Ambition and coldness dominate Jager?s Adorno, and he suggests that Adorno?s achievements deserve due measures of both respect and skepticism. After their exile in the U.S., Adorno and the Institute returned to Frankfurt in the 1950s, and Jager does a terrific job describing the varying strands and strains of its power there, right up to the student revolts of the late ?60s (when Adorno?s lectures were disrupted). This excellent volume delivers a microcosm of German intellectual life through a portrait of one of its major 20th-century exponents. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.