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LBI Book Club, Vol. VIII

Fanny von Arnstein: Daughter of the Enlightenment

In February, we will be reading Fanny von Arnstein: Daughter of the Enlightenment by Hilde Spiel.  We are pleased to have as our special guest in the discussion Professor Deborah Hertz.

About the Book

Fanny von Arnstein was an important figure in the history of the Enlightenment.  Born into a wealthy Jewish family in Berlin, she married and moved to Vienna, where she founded a salon attracted politicians, artists, writers, and other prominent figures. Included in this list are Madame de Staël, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Amadeus Mozart. Hilde Spiel's biography provides "a vivid portrait of a brave and passionate woman, illuminating a central era in European cultural and social history." (Quotes from Amazon review).  At the same time, a biography is also a product of its own place and time.  Published in 1962 in German, it was less than 20 years since the Holocaust, and thus speaks to Jewish world that had been decimated, but also reborn.


Hilde Spiel (1911-1990) was born into a Jewish family in Vienna.  With the rise of Nazism in the country, she chose to immigrate to London in 1936, before the Anschluss.  Both an author and a journalist, Hilde and her family visited Austria regularly after the war, and Hilde returned permanently in 1963, the year after Fanny von Arnstein: Daughter of the Enlightenment was published. Spiel herself stated this was her favorite work of all she had written. She died in 1990 in Vienna.


Deborah Hertz is the Herman Wouk Chair in Modern Jewish Studies and a professor in the Department of History at the University of California in San Diego.  You can learn more about her work here.  We look forward to having her join us.