Ken Krimstein: The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt

Buy me a coffeeBuy me a coffee
One of the quotes that Hannah Arendt said that I kept over my desk as I was writing is ‘Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.’
Listen on Google Play Music


Ken Krimstein discusses his book The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt—A Tyranny of Truth with Chris Richardson. Krimstein's recently published graphic novel/biography of Hannah Arendt has been named a finalist for the 2019 Society of Midland Author’s Award, a finalist for the Jewish Book Council's 2018 National Jewish Book Awards, a finalist for the 2019 Chautauqua Literary Prize, one of the best graphic novels of the year by Forbes, and made the top ten lists of The Comics Journal. In addition, he has published cartoons in the New Yorker, Punch, the Wall Street Journal, and has written for New York Observer’s “New Yorker's Diary” and McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Yankee Pot Roast, and Mr. Beller's Neighborhood. He is the author of Kvetch as Kvetch Can, and teaches at De Paul University. He lives in Evanston, Illinois. His website is


The Song of Bernadette
By Franz Werfel

Everyone seems to sort of know the Jennifer Jones Hollywood movie, and it’s not a bad one. But beyond that, Werfel, the author of this historical novel inhabits much of the same world that Hannah Arendt did. In fact, Werfel, like Walter Benjamin, spent time in Lourdes, hiding from the Nazis. Except that Werfel made it to America, unlike Arendt’s friend and mentor Benjamin. A surprisingly satisfying and unsettling excursion into the intersection of humanity, faith, science, time and history


Hannah Arendt said, “Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.” Werner Herzog said what he’s trying to portray in his art is what he calls “ecstatic truth.” I don’t know if these two ever met IRL, but in my imagination, they are BFFs. The range and honesty and uniqueness of Herzog’s observations, and the freshness of his stories are constant spirit fuel.


A 1970 exploration of the frontiers between words and pictures and myth and legend and eroticism and comics and Orpheus — from Italy yet. I picked up this edition on a whim and it walloped me back. Not perfect (what is?), but unsettling and inspiring, which is a very good thing for me.

Men in Dark Times
By Hannah Arendt

Since I’ve written my biography of Arendt, I’ve often been asked which of her works I’d recommend. Besides “all,” I really like this collection of reflections on friends, inspirations, thinkers (not all the profiles are men, by the way, two of the “men,” are women). It displays both the courage of her thinking and the brilliance of her writing. As a biographer, I like discovering the “thought” as an extension of the “life.” These are vibrant stories that portray an ethics that comes out of action. It also demonstrates what I believe could be Arendt’s greatest skill — that of being a great reader.


Divinely strange, unique, nearly outsider art comics that push the limits of the medium through extremely personal words and pictures that reflect a parallel universe, not one I’m sure I’d like to inhabit, but it’s a nice place to visit. Probably as far from the kind of work I am capable of doing as anything I’ve ever seen — but that’s why it inspires me so much.