A grand narrative of the intertwining lives of Walter Benjamin, Martin Heidegger, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Ernst Cassirer, major philosophers whose ideas shaped the twentieth century
The year is 1919. The horror of the First World War is still fresh for the protagonists of Time of the Magicians
, each of whom finds himself at a crucial juncture. Benjamin is trying to flee his overbearing father and floundering in his academic career, living hand to mouth as a critic. Wittgenstein, by contrast, has dramatically decided to divest himself of the monumental fortune he stands to inherit, in search of absolute spiritual clarity. Meanwhile, Heidegger, having managed to avoid combat in war by serving instead as a meteorologist, is carefully cultivating his career. Finally, Cassirer is working furiously on the margins of academia, applying himself intensely to his writing and the possibility of a career at Hamburg University. The stage is set for a great intellectual drama, which will unfold across the next decade. The lives and ideas of this extraordinary philosophical quartet will converge as they become world historical figures. But as the Second World War looms on the horizon, their fates will be very different.
Wolfram Eilenberger tells a gripping story about some of history's most ambitious and passionate thinkers, and illuminates with rare clarity and economy their brilliant ideas, which all too often have been regarded as enigmatic or opaque.