From Time to Time by Hannah Tillich. Stein and Day Publishers,
1973. 152 pages.
Reviews by Andrew Kimble, Kaleb Oakleaf, Jeehyun Baek, Lauren E. Hippert, RH,
TB, and ZR
Hannah Tillich's autobiography, From Time to Time, is a work of art. From the very beginning the reader is introduced to a poetic voice, one that gently unfolds the tale of a woman who put love at the center of her life.
Born in Rothenburg, Germany, in 1896, Hannah was one of six children in a relatively stable, middle-class household. Her father was a superintendent of several school parishes which required the family to relocate to various neighborhoods in Berlin over the course of Hannah's childhood and teenage years; he was also a minister, a hunter, a fisherman, a gardener, and a woodcutter. Her mother emigrated from America to Germany, but first met her husband-to-be in a courtyard in New York; she was primarily interested in the arts, a piano player, and always preoccupied with the children's clothes, even hiring a seamstress to make new coats and such as the children outgrew them.
While Hannah's relationship with her parents and siblings was strong, the passion she invested in her friendships over the years exhibits the depth of her love. She maintained a proclivity for sexual exploration and validation which found its origin in her personal discovery of her “femaleness,” and the femaleness of her companions. With vivid, colorful language Hannah unabashedly recalls memories of brief episodes of sexual curiosity, but it was not until Hannah enrolled in a high school for the arts and acquired male companions that she began to find men attractive. The degree of detail with which Hannah describes these memories is remarkable and deserves recognition for its candor. It also suggests that Hannah had an obsession with sex; this notion begins to crystallize as the book progresses.
The book is compiled in such a way that, between chapters, poems and allegorical tales enhance the already surreal, dreamy texture of the autobiography. While some of these were sexual in tone and dealing with love, others were deeply reverent and reflective, and revealed her true artistic genius.
Before marrying Paul in 1924, Hannah married another man by the name of Albert to whom she bore a child. Tragically the child soon thereafter passed away, and Hannah and Albert later proceeded to divorce. Her relationship with Albert was always overshadowed by her overwhelming affection for Paul, who she met at an affair while engaged to Albert. It becomes evident that the triumphant nature of Hannah and Paul's future relationship occurred at the expense of another man's decency, but the couple's resilience throughout the decades proves they were ultimately meant to be together.
Both World War I and II played a substantial role in Hannah's life, the former by depraving her family of vital resources during her youth and the latter by forcing her departure from Germany. The event of her arrival to the United States was largely conditioned by her husband Paul's professional academic career. A widely respected theologian across the university landscape in Germany, he was coveted by the faculty of Union Theological Seminary in New York City who sought to provide a place of refuge during the rise of the Nazi regime and World War II. Paul would inevitably remain on the faculty for more than twenty years, and would then accept brief terms at Harvard University and the University of Chicago.
From Time to Time, authored by Hannah and published after Paul's death, is in its own way a liberating moment for a woman affected by heartache, infidelity, and resentment. The arc of her life's journey and the course of her relationship with Paul sustained tumultuous times, but Hannah always carried with her the fragments of both pain and joy. Any reading of Paul Tillich is incomplete without understanding his wife, his life companion, in her own brilliant right.
The primary feeling that I am left with in the wake of reading Hannah Tillich's book, From Time to Time, is one of conflict. This feeling of conflict has little to do with any moral qualms or questions of content and more to do with the experience of reading Hannah's story. Using poems, short stories, personal narrative, and reflection Hannah draws the reader into her internal world and experience of life. In this space, Hannah explores how she saw herself and her environment at each stage of life, and ultimately contrasts those snapshots with her image of self in the fullness of life. The contrasting images and difficult life experiences (in and out of Hannah's relationship with Paulus) present in this work leave the reader empathizing with Hannah's own internal conflicts.
Hannah Tillich structures her autobiography in four parts: Childhood, Youth, Marriage, and The United States. Each part includes a prelude which is often made up of poetry or short stories that illuminate the more linear narratives to come. The four parts are subdivided by place - the location which Hannah was residing. Within the structure of place, Hannah's writing takes a more fluid tact. Though overall linearly progressing from childhood to old age, framing subsections by place allow Hannah the freedom to include associations and memories as they come to her. For example, when recalling interactions with a particular friend she often concludes with the details of the end of that person's life (or the end of her interaction with said person). The subsections are occasionally separated by an interlude, comprised of more poetry or short stories.
Childhood begins in earnest from the very beginning. Hannah explores some of her earliest possible memories, including some stories she must have been told when she was older. She writes of how her umbilical cord almost strangled her, and will revisit this experience in various iterations as she reflects on the violence of birth and her relationship with her mother. Her father, an educator who is often asked to organize school districts was a less than perfect man. Hannah describes her first encounter with her “father's weakness,” alcohol (46). This formative experience seems to have colored her image of her father from then on, contributing to a combative element in their relationship as she entered youth. In youth, she describes taking on the role of protector to her younger brothers. When he was drunk and “querulous” at the dinner table, Hannah would level her criticism at him, often putting herself at risk of his rage (62). This protector role is related to one of Hannah's self referential images from childhood, the white knight.
Hannah doesn't shy away from discussing sex or her complicated relationship with various lovers. Of particular interest is her first sexual experience, around age 15. Hannah met Annie at a coffee garden, where an orchestra played popular music. Annie invited Hannah to her aunt's house. There, in the cover of darkness, Annie taught Hannah about sexual exploration and about reproduction (51). The experience left Hannah a different person. Later, Hannah will detail how her next several sexual encounters were with women. Though she will eventually marry a man, these encounters suggest that from an early age Hannah lived outside of societal boundaries of normalcy.
Hannah's time at art school should not be overlooked. At a young age she advocated attending art school. Still too young, she was required to take private courses and the first year course twice. However, Hannah gained entrance, and in due time learned about lines, colors, art history, and more. Art opened new worlds to Hannah, worlds of “museums, private galleries, theaters, and new books” (63). Art led her to further independence and a new sense of self. It brought with it new friends. It brought passion and expression, skills that would serve her the rest of her life.
To say that Hannah had a complex association with marriage might be an understatement. By her own account she seems to have genuinely loved Albert, her first husband, but was completely taken aback by the passion which struck her when she was with Paulus. Though in their first meeting at the “Fancy Dress Ball” she took some time to warm to him (85), once the fire was lit it seems as if she couldn't put it out. Hannah, already engaged to Albert, continued with the marriage, though she continued to communicate with Paulus. It wasn't until she became pregnant with Albert's child that she knew she must leave him. “It transformed my vague toying with the idea of leaving Albert into a decision” (96).
Hannah's eventual marriage to Paulus didn't go as smoothly as she would have liked either. In an enactment that seems to encapsulate their continually mismatched expectations, Hannah describes how on their wedding night Paulus insisted on going out with Dox and some friends for a bachelor's outing (104-105). She says, “I was stunned, then infuriated.” Jealousy sprung from this encounter, and jealousy characterized a large part of Hannah's interactions with Paulus for much of their marriage. Though she never gets into the details of their arraignment, never calls it explicitly an open marriage, it seems clear from her narrative that some agreement had been made. However, the way this agreement plays out is ultimately unsatisfactory to Hannah. Perhaps in many ways she idolized Paulus, which made what she felt to be his infelicities sting that much more. She writes “I turned Paulus into a little god, a boy Eros. He expected me to be his goddess, taking him into loving arms whenever he emerged from the darkness of his undiscriminating sensuality. Our masks contradicted each other” (104).
Hannah was not without her own share of lovers outside the bounds of marriage. Of particular importance to her was her relationship with Heinrich. She describes him as formatively teaching her to make her desire known in bed, to be active, and to respond to another's need. Hannah was happy with Heinrich, but only when she was also happy with Paulus. Heinrich lived across the street from Hannah and Paulus in Dresden for many years. Contrastingly, Hannah describes Paulus as being enamored of “ 1000 legs.” He pursued love no matter where it took him. On several occasions in the book Hannah indicates that it was particularly wounding that Paulus would deny that anything happened with other women. These differences in the way that each person enacted the “terms” of their marriage, and engaged with their expectations of each other, would ultimately continue to drive a wedge between them.
As tensions rose in Germany around the time of WWII, the Tillich's were faced with a tough decision. Eventually they found their way to the US, for the safety of their children, though Paulus worked to fight for his ideals in Germany until the end. Once in the US their problems weren't over. Paulus' busy schedule, engaging a new culture, tight budget, and continued sexual forays kept stressors high. This section oscillates between amusing stories, like the Tillich's confusion over American “politeness” and Paulus' obsession with creating the perfect Christmas tree (178), and more sobering accounts of Paulus' estrangement from his family. Hannah describes feeling broken by this situation. In yoga and meditation, she finds new ways to engage her marriage and her partner (190-191). Though her account of this transformation is short, one gets the sense that it was profound and the product of much personal work. From this point on, Hannah seems able to accept the long journey she has been on, and enjoy Paulus for the man he is. She writes “I felt compassion for Paulus, I could enjoy him again, loving his noble aging face, listening to him on social evenings” (202).
The conflicting feelings this book produces in its reader are born of the pain, love, struggle, and compassion present in Hannah's own life. They represent a progression of a complex human being from childhood to a fullness of life. In this short work, Hannah captures the intricacies of human interaction, of self discovery, and engagement with the other. Her narrative takes the reader on her journey, and because of her willingness to share her wealth of experience, we have been granted one more perspective into the life of Paul Tillich. At the end, in his absence, we are left to struggle with Hannah with what he left behind.
Almost ten years after the great theologian Paul Tillich passed away, his wife, Hannah Tillich, published her own autobiography-From Time to Time-to reflect on her own life and her marriage to husband Paulus. As the one who had most intimate relations with Paulus, in her autobiography, Hannah attempts to deliver Paulus's personhood, agony, struggles, and even his sexual life openly and in detail to the reader. Paulus's male friends or students focus on his theological works and somewhat idealize his personal life out of admiration for the great theologian. With this different perspective and in a female voice, she reveals different parts of Tillich's life which were often minimized or hidden.
In her autobiography, the composition of the book and her writing style show Hannah Tillich's artistic and literary talent as an art student, as well as her deep emotion and memory throughout the stories of her life. While she structures her book in four main chapters-childhood, youth, marriage, and the United States-each chapter is comprised in prelude, interlude, and postlude. Her autobiography is located in between her short writings of fiction and poems. This is how our author chooses to portray the life of Hannah Tillich. Although it is not easy to recognize the intention of her blended (mixed) structure and comprehend the meaning of her short stories and poems, it is true that these creative works show who Hannah was, how she struggled with her own life, and how she used these creative work as a way to overcome her life's suffering.
Moreover, although she describes her childhood and youth in the beginning of her autobiography, the majority of her life stories as well as her fictions and poems throughout the book are connected with her relationship with Paulus. Thus, even though it is Hannah's own autobiography, she existed as Paul Tillich's wife not as Hannah herself in this book. It may be the case that what the audience desires to hear is not her own story as Hannah but her story related with her husband Paulus as Mrs. Tillich. That said, the reader can find the fact that as a woman who lived in the modern era, her life in both Germany and America was deeply dependent upon her husband, Paul Tillich, after their marriage. Because of her reliance on her husband she is afraid to be “another woman for [Paulus]” and “a stranger” but at the same time she attempts to find her independent self in order to find the meaning of her life (p.19).
As Tillich's wife, Hannah honestly portrays her married life and her husband Paulus's intimate friendship and sexual encounters with other women which may have been hurtful and shameful for Hannah to reveal publicly. Through her detailed description of Paulus's relationships with other women during their open marriage, Hannah's writing presents how Paulus' sexual life not only influences Hannah but also influences his children (although she does not directly mention it because of her promise to their children that she “[will] not talk about [their] problems and [their family's] life together” (p.184)). According to male writers and theologians, Hannah's suffering from her marriage is due to her jealousy toward the other women of Paulus. They come to this determination by identifying her suffering as the negative feeling of jealousy, which they see as a product of the inferior feelings of women and their immaturity. However, for Hannah, it was the problem of basic faith within an open marriage: “she was sick of being betrayed” whenever she sees Paulus and other woman in the nude and later he denies every fact (p.187). Thus, while remembering her life's stories, Hannah shows how strongly she tries to live with her pain and survive her suffering: “every morning I was willing and glad to live again; every evening I felt shoved beneath a heap of stones (p.242).”
Hannah Tillich's autobiography leaves a question with the reader: does Paul Tillich's life affect how we regard his theology? How can the reader receive his theology along with the content of his life? There is no theology without its certain context. Thus, in order to fully understand Tillich's theology, one should consider his context and recognize how his theology is developed in a response to his context. For Tillich, horrors of the war, the oppression of Nazis, anxiety in human life, and existential concerns were the starting points for this theology, and he attempted to philosophically and existentially sublimate these in his theology. Believing that “life itself should be the fulfillment of one's theological proclamation,” his theological works could not be embodied over the course of his life. As Rollo May argued, if his sexual life with other women during his life was the product of an anxiety from “seeking his lost mother,” he could not solve his existential concern in his daily life. As a scholar he found the extraordinary way to sublimate his anxiety in theological theories, but as a theologian he failed to live out what he believed.
In reviews of Hannah Tillich's memoir, “From Time to Time,“ the same question emerges again and again: “Does Hannah Tillich accurately portray Paul in her memoir?” I would like to retire this question forever. Although it is useful if one is checking facts about Paul Tillich, it is entirely useless when examining an autobiographical account. The question has exhausted itself, because Hannah never claimed to write a history of Paul Tillich. Although their stories inevitably intertwined, this is a story about Hannah's life and Hannah's feelings. While it certainly does not provide an unbiased report of Paul Tillich, it does give readers a glimpse into the life of the woman that he deeply loved-a fiercely intelligent, bold, outspoken woman with a fiery personality. She thrives before she meets Paul, and her story does not end with his.
Even during her youth, Hannah is an independent thinker and she proves again and again that Hannah will have Hannah's way. She spends her childhood dashing wildly through the woods with her brothers and their friends. (38) She reads so voraciously that her father tries (unsuccessfully) to keep her to a daily limit. When she graduates from high school, she convinces her parents to allow her to attend art school. (61) She unabashedly pursues sexual relationships with other women even though it is considered morally wrong in her circle. When she is “suspected of lesbianism,” and her father confronts her about it, she lies about where she was: “I repeated that I had been home. I knew he had not been at home. He had been drunk that day. Nobody checked it further.”(65) Hannah does not express the slightest remorse about any of her sexual relationships or about lying to other people to cover them up.
Hannah Tillich's idea of morality is not in any way dependent on societal norms. She goes so far as to claim that the rules of others are entirely irrelevant for her. (129) Rather, her sense of morality is very dependent on what she finds aesthetically pleasing. When she poses nude for her fiancé, Albert, before they married, she expresses no shame: “I had no reluctance in posing for him. Shame, to me, was connected with the sense of not being beautiful.” (80) She also names an “aesthetic discomfort” as one of the reasons that she ultimately ends up leaving Albert: “There was also something in the line of my first husband Albert's back-in his elongated neck, his sloping shoulders-which did not please me.” (70) The only explanation she gives for leaving recklessly her first husband for Paul, aside from that “aesthetic discomfort,” is that she simply cannot tolerate an orderly life (93) and that she “belongs in the intellectual and emotional confusion of a pluralistic worldview.” (92)
Thus, she chooses to accept the unpredictability and pain that comes along with being with a man like Paul. Though this ends up bringing her problems later in life, she shows no signs of regrets that she chose to leave her first husband for him. She gives up the predictability, the unwavering affection Albert has for her, to go after the man who had captured her heart, the man who was just as fiery and impulsive and unpredictable as she was. When she says she is going to leave her husband to be with him, Paul answers “Yes.” (93) Her decision involves a pregnancy and a divorce which is certain to be messy, yet both she and Paul accept the messiness of the situation in order to be together. Their marriage was a whirlwind of chaos from the very beginning. She remains deeply enamored by Paul, and no other man except him can capture and keep her attention and devotion. It brings her a great deal of joy, but it also brings intense pain when she ultimately changes her mind about what she wants. She and Paul Tillich had what would now be called an open marriage, though she uses no such label in her own memoir and, in fact, documents a steady evolution into a “one-man woman.”(201)
Although some may have interpreted her book as an attack on Paul Tillich, Hannah was honest about her own part in many of the arguments, her own affairs, and her own insecurities, jealousy. She mentions one scene in particular, when Heinrich, a man she had a 5-year affair with, tried to ease her jealousy by having a lesbian woman flirt with Paul while they had sex. She was not distracted, but became progressively more upset: “I could only listen to the sounds from the next room. I became more and more hysterical…I implored Heinrich to end the scene…Eva and Paulus were called back…they were unruffled and sympathetic. I remained jealous.” (130) She does not seem to place all of the blame on Paul for the problems in their marriage, although the book does contain some scathing attacks on his ability to care for his family. She claims at one point, after they traveled to the United States and Paul took up his position at Union Theological Seminary, that it was easier for a student to get help than his own family. (182) When Paul had affairs, she felt that he “always protected the other woman” and did not protect her. (240)
For every attack on Paul, there is a sentence gushing over Paul and how proud she was of him: “Even during the years when we nearly separated, I had the same sensation of pleasurable joy when I opened the door for him…Seeing Paulus’s face was always glorious to me.” (70) She writes about how, when there were guests at their house, she wanted him to be the center of conversation. (146) Even during a fit of rage, when Paul is running wildly in the streets in Germany swearing about the Nazi regime, possibly drawing the attention of the authorities to him and his family, Hannah watches in awe: “He ran down the street, cursing and swearing aloud. I had to laugh in all my sorrow-I was very proud of him…He would not leave of his own volition…they had to throw him out…”(156) These are not the vindictive words of a woman who has fabricated an entire work to take stabs at her former husband. These are the words of a woman who was simultaneously deeply in love and deeply disappointed.
In their old age, the tumultuous nature of their marriage seems to calm down. Once neither of them are seeking sex, the companionship, “whatever was there when we were younger,” (202) remained. They traveled together, and Hannah was with him when he died. He never wanted a divorce, even though they had heated arguments all the time. Whatever disappointments and set backs they faced in their relationship, whatever complications that came along with the way that they chose to live, they continued to love each other and the affection that they had did not die. Her pride in him and her dedication did not fade.
She writes about the struggles of losing her husband, a man so famous and well loved, everyone wanting to take part in the grief. (226) In the wake of his death, she goes through years of intense introspection, depression and withdrawal from all of their mutual friends. She asks herself where she came in in the story, what she was to him. (242) She was in the position of knowing him better than anyone, being hurt by him more than anyone, and then deciding which remnants of his past should remain: “I lit the fireplace and sat for two days burning the great man's past, as he had wished me to do. The fire did something to me. I would go on living.” (243) Her story does not end when his story ends. She goes on to live another 23 years, and she publishes 3 books after his death. Although his story is an important part of her story, her story is not limited to his.
In writing this memoir, she is also in the fascinating position of writing his past along with hers. There is a prevalent idea that Hannah presents an inaccurate picture of her relationship with Paul in her book. Memory in some ways is always distorted and disjunctive, and in that sense her book is bound to be inaccurate. However, she is not attempting to paint herself in a positive light at all times. On the contrary, she opens up about several rather terrible things that she did-leaving her first husband with a letter on the table asking for a divorce (90), her fits of jealousy (130), shouting at her husband across the lawn that she needs money, humiliating him in front of students and faculty (182), and her lack of mourning for Heinrich's death, a man she had a 5-year long affair with (144). She is clearly not concerned with guarding her own reputation. These are her honest feelings, her life as she experienced it. The reader of any autobiography must recognize that some facts are suspect, and it is the responsibility of the reader to discern which those are. Reading her story only through the lens of what information it provides about Paul is a mistake. When read as a work about her own experiences and not as a history of Paul, Hannah does not disappoint.
Autobiographies have their upsides and their downsides.
On one hand, the reader is able to obtain true insight into the author’s
mind, perspective, feelings, and all sorts of aspects hidden to the outside
observer. On the other hand, there is the danger of an author telling a
slanted version of the truth in order to present a better or ideal version
of the writer for the reader. Many biographies and autobiographies are
written in a style that is dry and straight to the point. Concrete evidence
and personal acquaintances are often used to present the person in the most
factual way possible. However, Hannah Tillich’s From Time to Time
stands out among autobiographical accounts by virtue of its incorporation of
various literary styles, vivid images and details that flow directly from
her own psyche, and an honesty that pours forth from the soul in often
disturbing yet recognizable human characteristics.
Hannah begins her tale with a series of short prose
stories. It is difficult to decipher exactly what these writings intended to
communicate to the reader, but it is clear that Hannah is referring to
events in her life and the emotions and thoughts that accompanied them. Her
husband, Paul Tillich, whom she refers to by his given name in German,
Paulus, seems to be the subject of many of her poems and short stories.
Hannah’s childhood is full of fairy tales and ghost
stories. She describes her own childhood using joyous events as well as
horrific and bizarre ones, never allowing herself simply to ignore or deny
the more troublesome moments. She mentions her chilling fear of spiders
(22), the time her older brother and his girlfriend took her into the
bicycle shed to humiliate her for the purpose of their own amusement (28),
and her father’s addiction to alcohol (62). Experiences that most would
desire to shut away and never look upon again are described in vivid detail
as she progresses from her childhood to her teenage years and on into young
Hannah tells how she explored her sexuality and all the
emotions, sensations, and unexpected surprises that go with it. She
unashamedly goes into graphic detail of her early encounters with human
sexuality and artistically expresses the complications and frustrations of
sexual feelings and desires, both with men and women. She portrays the
experience of first discovering this sexuality as changing her into “a
different person” (51).
Hannah’s description of her first husband is gently
plotted as a kind love and affection for him, but something that lacked in
comparison to the way she felt when she met Paulus. She becomes pregnant by
Albert, her first husband, but the child dies shortly after birth. She
paints a scene of silent horror in her telling of this event. While she
makes no mention of feeling sadness or grief at the loss of this child, she
describes the figure of the dead baby as “yellow and waxlike” (97) which
gives a surreal account of the morbid atmosphere surrounding the child’s
death. Shortly after the child’s death, she and Paulus married. They had
been seeing each other for quite some time, much against Albert’s wishes.
As she presses on in her life, now with Paulus, her
sense of independence becomes more and more centered around a commitment to
the great theologian despite their agreement to have an open marriage. She
sees this as a choice and not an unbreakable rule. She allows herself to see
other men, but she becomes jealous of Paulus when he sees other women,
another strikingly honest confession that makes her autobiography all the
more enjoyable to read. This attitude of including others in certain aspects
of their marriage continues for years until the couple is elderly and living
comfortably in the United States.
With the rise of the Nazi regime, Hannah, her husband,
and her young daughter, Erdmuthe, fled to the United States to escape the
tyranny of the new, unrecognizable Germany. She describes her new life in
the states as one big life-shattering adjustment after another. Everything
in the culture is different, often in ways that make her smile, but more
often in ways that are disheartening, especially since the job Paulus held
at Union Theological Seminary paid very little, and the company in that
institution held little promise of accepting her and her perspectives on
art, sex, and the nooks and crannies of daily life. She describes the
adjustment as one that caused great turmoil for her and her family. Her once
close relationship with Paulus began to grow very distant. She claims that
Paulus was accepting invitations to give lectures and but not accepting the
pay that often came with them. This was the topic of one of several
recurring arguments they were to have during this time (190). It wasn’t
until Paulus accepted a new position at another institution that things
began to look up.
At Harvard University, Paulus received a significant
pay increase and something that money could not buy, an environment where he
and his wife were surrounded by university faculty of all disciplines as
opposed to the seminary crowd who perceived the German family as “artsy”.
While Paulus was at Harvard, Hannah prospered. Their marriage mended as
their lives grew happier in the city of Cambridge (198).
The way in which Hannah confesses every deep pore of
her life is shocking and refreshingly devout all at the same time. Her
poetry paints pictures on a canvas that captures the reader’s attention and
holds it to the very last page. She ignores the conventional style of
autobiographies and follows the path of her memories and takes pictures
along the way to put in a lavish photo album for the reader. Her startling
short stories are indicative of Flannery O’Connor’s chillingly awkward tales
in which the American author claimed to be telling the world about God.
Hannah Tillich has truly produced a marvel of literary accomplishment. The
honesty portrayed in the way she puts forth her own psychological
perspective is invigorating in its originality and detail. The best part of
this work is the way it portrays Paul Tillich. The great theologian is
uncovered. Every aspect of his personality is revealed, including the dark
corners which are often kept in secret in biographical writings. Hannah has
helped the reader dare to investigate a new side of the self, a place not
open to the public and rarely visited by one’s private thoughts.
Hannah Tillich’s reflection on her life and her life
with husband Paulus is an impressive demonstration of
recollection. Lest such praise be misconstrued as an
underhanded compliment, I hasten to add that Hannah
consistently recalls the details and relevant causal
processions that add richness and depth to the narrative
of the Tillichs’ life together. On balance the work is
worthy of praise for its candid elucidation of a rich
In concert with Paulus’s method in works such as his
Systematic Theology, Hannah lays out the book
comprehensively, dividing it into sections that proceed
roughly chronologically but in a more significant way
logically appropriately. Thus, Hannah is free to
begin with a series of vignettes of her conversations
with Paulus as an elderly couple, kept nebulous and
abstract. These vignettes direct the reader’s attention
to her interpretation of her life as a whole. She then
outlines her early life, youth, marriage to Paulus, move
to the United States, her experience of Paulus’s death,
and finally an ambiguous postlude conversation between
an old woman and a “proprietor.” Each section is
arranged around the place in which she lived, and she
always allows herself an “Interlude” of poetry,
travelogue, or drama.
With respect to the thematic character of From
Time to Time, Hannah’s principal discernible
influence is depth psychology. She spends a surprisingly
long time looking into the formative years of her early
childhood. She is careful to entertain themes, such as
her notable fear of spiders, in an analytic tenor. As
the narrative progresses, spiders appear as primordial,
subconscious demons, then as symbols of her relationship
with her brothers, then as manifestations of her
relationships with men, later as a complex symbol for
her mother’s sexuality, and finally, in the cessation of
fear, as the reconciliation of life with existential
angst. Hannah’s treatment of spiders functions as the
partly conscious and partly subconscious object of her
psyche brought to bear on certain crucial situations in
which she finds herself.
Without a doubt, the most arresting feature of the
book is its pervasive, visceral consideration of
sexuality. Hannah’s commitment to depth psychology makes
itself manifest in the sexual threads that weave into
the narrative. Far from dealing with her sexuality and
that of others as a monolithic dimension of experience,
Hannah always elects to discuss sexuality as an
extension of the personality of the one she is
describing. She often allots a good deal of space to
descriptions of someone’s sexual character—almost always
explicitly as understood through her (Hannah’s)
experience, and always with an eye to contributing to a
rich and accurate description of that person’s entire
Hannah never uses the term “open marriage” or other
convenient labels to describe her relationship with
Paulus, choosing instead to nuance the reader’s
understanding of their bond throughout the narrative.
Hannah provides the reader with a holistic view of her
sexual life and (to a slightly lesser extent) that of
her husband, and discusses those sexual lives as
distinct yet closely intertwined realities that change
as their relationship progresses. She writes, for
example, that “Paulus considered marriage a decision of
the will” (103), a view she could not share (190). She
laments what she perceives as the American tendency to
construe sex as “a cold bed and satisfying a
physiological need only” (176). And it would be
irresponsible to conclude that Hannah brings up the
sexual as pervasively as she does merely for shock
value. Instead, she examines one’s sexual
characteristics as the natural correlate to one’s
overall disposition, consciously or unconsciously
apprehended, in pursuit of a full and deep description
of that person.
Whether Hannah is, on balance, sympathetic to
Paulus is a difficult question. It must be stated
outright that this book should be considered a work of
autobiography, not as a biography of Paul
Tillich. Hannah dedicates too much time to her early
life and her own particular areas of demonstrated genius
to be misunderstood as an unofficial biographer of
Paulus. Yet she does acknowledge that, in the midst of
her consideration of Paulus’ life, she must ask the
question: “Where did I come in” (242)? There is a
narrative movement between the ecstasies of Paulus’
ability to connect soul to soul, on the one hand, and
the agonies of his aloofness, his willful deception, and
his inability to fully commit to Hannah, on the other.
I conclude that Hannah is ultimately more critical of
Paulus than she is sympathetic to him. She paints a
bleak picture of the extent to which Paulus actually did
will his marriage to succeed—that is, to succeed in the
ways in which Hannah needed it to. She mentions her love
and hatred for Paulus often, and often in the same
breath (18), but she frequently speaks of men and women
whom she “loved” in a deep sense, and she never
problematizes the term, even when referring to brief
relationships she had in her teenage years. It seems
Hannah is deeply affected by what one could call Paulus’
structure of betrayal, and though she truly loved him,
she never could reconcile herself to the thought that
she was “second best” (17). Even though Hannah did
understand Paulus’ theology—that she would be second
best only in light of a “cosmic reservation”—she could
not ultimately bring herself to write about Paulus
without giving greater weight to critique than praise.
The place of Christian theology is an interesting
locus of Hannah’s attention. In contrast to her husband,
whose career is largely (especially in the US) occupied
with Christian theological reflection and occasional
preaching, Hannah seems to distance herself from the
theory and practice of Christianity. She speaks of “the
ecstasy of worship” in the context of her transgressive
relationship to Paulus while she was married to Albert
(93). Yet she refuses to take communion after her
childhood and often subtly rejects the practice of
religious faith. Further below the already-deep
discussion Hannah conducts between herself and Paulus is
the possibility that her life of faith was ultimately
irreconcilable to her husband’s.
Hannah falls somewhat short of the mark in her choice
to feature preludes, interludes, and postludes into an
otherwise logical narrative structure. Her poems are
occasionally poignant (and it must be said here that
many of them were translated from the German and thus
have lost something in translation), but their inclusion
does not contribute well to the narrative of her life
and that of Paulus. Such critique is even truer with
respect to her prose pieces; the drama of God and Death
in the interactions with the Nazis was interesting but
largely out of place, and her miniature play “The
Children of Zeus” is far afield. Hannah’s skill as a
creative thinker is considerable but her work of
autobiography suffers from its inclusion in From Time
Nevertheless, Hannah Tillich has performed not only
an impressive retrieval of memories from long ago, but
an act of courage in laying bare her life and
that of her husband. Such candor is not without an
ambiguous agenda that stems from an ambiguous
relationship, but certainly From Time to Time is
a labor of love by an impressive thinker and writer.
The world of Tillich studies received a new prize in Hannah Tillich’s
work, From Time to Time. Almost ten years after the great
theologian’s death, his wife released her own autobiography documenting her
complex relationship with her husband. From Time to Time is a work in
which Hannah comes to grips with and possibly exorcises the demons of her
complex marriage. Approaching this text written from the pen of Hannah
Tillich, who always was secondary in a relationship, I was not only
sympathetic towards her but also partially skeptical of what I would find. I
was sympathetic because I knew she felt Paulus had betrayed her trust. I was
skeptical because I was not sure if her emotions would allow her to give a
far account of her and Paulus’ relationship. After reading the text, my
sympathies and my skepticism were vindicated. I knew of Hannah Tillich’s
resentment toward Paulus’ relationship with other women. These relationships
without doubt played into Hannah’s critique of Paul throughout the text. The
tumultuous times expressed by Hannah seemed to animate the marriage itself.
The times themselves perhaps gave the marriage its life. Bordering on a
polemic, quite justified, From Time to Time is an account of Hannah’s
frustration against the person that she truly loved, Paulus. Her critiques
and understandings of her intimate relationship with her husband reveal a
deep sense of longing for stability that remained unsatisfied through most
of the marriage. The text itself is a testament to the disparaging
intricacies and difficulties when one’s identity, namely Hannah’s, is
dependent upon a relationship to a beloved public intellectual.
Throughout the text, the reader is made aware of the difficulties that
haunted Hannah. From her mother’s illness to the observation of her father’s
weakness (46), Hannah seemed to grow up a young girl who found consolation
in affirmation from others. From her first sexual encounter with her friend
Annie, Hannah gained a sense of identity through the pursuit of pleasure.
This pleasure seemed to give order to her life in ways that other pursuits
could not. In particular, the First World War seems to mirror the sense of
chaos that Hannah experienced in her life. To pursue pleasure was to pursue
order in spite of the disorder that the war created. This pursuit of order
through pleasure would only grow more emphatic as Hannah grew older. It
seems to have given her a sense of stability when her early youth required
much re-location because of her father’s vocation. At this time she also
began to fill her mind with the sensuous pleasures of literature and art.
These disciplines permitted her to express herself in ways that were
otherwise not possible for her.
From Time to Time allowed Hannah to express her deep sense of both
literary and artistic talent and at the same time cope with the tumultuous
times in which she lived. Written lucidly and tactfully, the text explains
how the first Great War overtook (73) her and her family about the time she
went to art school. Everyone in Germany was affected by the war both
physically and psychologically. Her time in school, documented in the text,
allowed her to convey a sense of longing and a felt sense of approval once
she found a new person or discipline to explore. She constantly probed the
landscape for new experiences with a child-like infatuation. The end of the
war meant a new Germany. Hannah’s new experiences and encounters changed her
life forever. She met Paulus right after the conclusion of the war at a
fancy-dress ball (83). Once again, Hannah’s infatuation with new pleasures
would lead her into experiences she had never had before. Paulus was like no
one she had ever met. Hannah vividly explains the first sexual encounter
between her and Paulus. It left Hannah with a renewed sense of life and
purpose: when he first entered her, “the world had become whole. I doubted
nothing. I asked nothing. With heart-rending intensity, I was his” (86). The
ordered life that she longed for, that the War would not permit, was
revealed to her in Paulus. From their first sexual encounter until Paulus'
death, Hannah found her identity in Paulus. This was an identity that she
had perpetually longed for and hoped would come and was finally achieved.
As a result of the spiritual passion that Paulus created in her, the
marriage of the two simply began the process of perpetual polarity between ecstasy and anxiety. The two became enmeshed in the very themes that
would pervade Paulus’ thought. While both welcomed the ecstatic in their
relationship, both individuals had unending anxiety about their identities
in Europe. They would be unable to express themselves fully if they
continued to live in Germany. As liberal intellectuals and objectors to
Nazism, they both knew that, as the Nazi regime gained power, neither would
be safe. As a result, they were forced to be refugees in a foreign land,
the United States. The United States meant a new sense of freedom. Paulus
was given new opportunities as a lecturer and teacher. Both Hannah and
Paulus were able to socialize openly with the Jewish population in America
as well as become enmeshed with the cultural opportunities that New York
City offered. They each gained a new outlook and a sense of having a home
away from home (171). It was a definitive turning point in the relationship
that did not preclude moments of jealousy and instability. Although moments
of a successful relationship were revealed in the text, a growing sense of
disgust on Hannah's part toward Paulus began in the United States.
In various moments throughout the text, Hannah excavates those feelings
of disgust. Hannah exposes the idiosyncratic features of Paulus’ personality
and belittles his character as his fame in the American intellectual
landscape began to grow. She also exposes her longings for the caress of
many different individuals because of Paulus’ moments of distance from her.
Once again, Hannah sought order in a lifestyle that granted pleasure.
Revealing Paulus’ multiple sexual endeavors and his childish temperament
when his aspirations were not met, each turn of the page is a glimpse into a
scorned woman’s psychology. Repeatedly commenting on Paulus’ role as the
taker of her virginal innocence, Hannah’s vignettes underline Paulus’
inadequacy to fill her emotional needs. He was believed to be distant yet
ever penetrating, close without presence, passionate yet detached. Each of
these attributes may have been the case, but Hannah was also a constant for
Paul. Throughout the text, it is apparent that their relationship was
dependent upon one another’s support. There is another side to Hannah's
story that is untold. This other side is without voice because Paulus did
not write a memoir detailing it. By her own admission, Hannah’s emotions
continually are expressed in the midst of Paulus’ rational thought
processes. The emotions that she conveys are often believed to fall on
Paulus’ deaf ears. Her emotive expressions contrasted drastically with
Paulus’ rational and structured thinking. She seemed to be the polar
opposite personality to counter Paulus’ ordered sense of self in the world.
Perhaps the moments when Paulus seemed most disordered are also the
moments in which Hannah’s rationality prevailed. She had to make sense of
her perceptions of him. Hannah sought order in her chaotic relationships.
Unfortunately her search for order conflicted with her passions for her
pleasure-seeking lifestyle. She began trying new things to cope. From Yoga,
which she called “the great liberation” (191), to her peaceful times at
Harvard (197), Hannah explains how she learned to flourish in the United
States. Although enmeshed in a bustling lifestyle, Hannah found some solace
in the cities where Paulus worked. The move to the United States marks a
definitive shift in the autobiography. She was liberated from the pressures
that Germany created and yet she still worried about her relationship with
her husband. Hannah needed to find something that she disagreed with in her
husband’s lifestyle. As a result, she objectified Paulus as an intellectual
driven by his desire for the seduction of those whom he impressed
intellectually. In light of the text of this book, there is a secret life of
Paulus that was hidden from the world. One of the obvious motivations for
this text is the exposure of the erotic seductive life of Paulus’ most
guarded subject, his sexuality. This personality trait was masked from
society at large. Unaware of the precise motivation for Hannah’s exposure of
Paulus’ ways of being in the world, I can only postulate that jealousy of
Paulus's fame motivated much of the aggression of the text. Regardless, many
who feel betrayed by the ones that they love often have a very difficult
time letting go of the past that is clouded by a feeling of loss. When
someone is betrayed it can feel as if a part of you has died and you will do
anything to recover that which you once experienced. Hannah’s critique of Paulus’ character should be understood in that light.
The bluntest critique of Paulus’ extramarital activities is revealed in
the final section of From Time to Time. Hannah returns to a house
that she and Paulus owned in East Hampton to find in Paulus’ office
evidences of his infidelity. As Hannah relives the many memories of her and
Paulus’ tumultuous yet satiable marriage, it seems as if she finally is
capable of speaking of the psychological effects and persistent hurt that
her husband’s actions created. Although no longer alive, the spirit of
Paulus looms ominously in her memory. After stating that “many women” (241)
had deteriorated their marriage Hannah seems to molt out of the skin she
felt forced to inhabit, the poor unassuming wife. She believes that the most
intimate moments that she and Paulus ever experienced involved a bottle of
wine and a hangover in the morning. Despite her respite she seems to gather
herself enough to gain a sense of closure. But by what means does she gain
her prize? After years of teetering on the “seesaw of suffering and hate”
(241), Hannah expresses her deep feelings of regret for marrying someone
who, she realized at his death, she never truly knew. In the locked drawers
of Paulus’ desk and dressers, Hannah uncovered images and letters of her
husband’s past for the first time. These words and images flooded into
Hannah's mind and she could not help but express her feelings of repugnance
and resentment. She was hurt, provoked to anger, and she wondered about her
place in this fractured world of deception and vice. Feeling ever apart from
Paulus’ ultimate concern she ends the narrative by filling the void of her
own personhood with every demeaning statement that would portray Paulus as a
spiteful, arrogant and childish monolith. She is begging for a voice amongst
the tattered vestiges of the husband she once knew. At the end, she seems
alone in a world that diverges dramatically from everything she thought she
What can one make of such a harrowing tale of marriage? First, one must
understand the politics of storytelling. Second, one must be aware of how
those politics play out in the othering of another person through discursive
poetics. The politics of storytelling creates identities through a narrative
framework. These narratives in turn express value judgments about those
portrayed in the story. If that is the only encounter a reader has with an
individual, then the individual, in this case Paulus, is a maligned
character. I am sure Paulus’ memoir would have discussed his disapproval of
some of Hannah's actions as well. The creation of Paulus’ identity in From
Time to Time is conveyed in the discursive poetics of the narrative. As
a result Paulus is conveyed as a deviant other who diverges from the proper
path. Hannah creates the deviancy of Paulus as a means to distance herself
from his memory. Understandably, she was hurt and felt betrayed by the man
who always helped order her world. Is her objectification of Paulus correct?
Of course, she had whatever feelings she had for her husband. She was
heartbroken and frustrated by his deceit. If I had been betrayed by someone
who I loved for so long, I believe that I too might need to write down my
feelings and display them to the world.
The beginning of the narrative conveyed a sense of cohesion between
Hannah and Paulus. So much a part of one another, they seemed to share their
lives completely. As From Time to Time concludes, the audience is
left with a scar that seems to penetrate deep into the theological flesh
that the theologian Paul Tillich nourished so imaginatively. What are we to
learn from a narrative about a fallen hero and the compassionate woman who
seemed ever at his side yet never acknowledged? Perhaps one can glean the
diversity in the polarities of these two fascinating minds. Yes, there
seemed to be a depth dimension to the love that Hannah and Paulus shared.
But masking that depth is the secret life of the emotions that one can never
fully bridle. To bridle such emotions would inevitably suppress the
ecstatic. Perhaps the final glimpse that we gain into the life of Hannah in
her East Hampton house is exactly what troubles the individual who is
plagued with such proximity to great individuals. Sacrifice befits us all in
some measure. Being great and being affiliated with great individuals
creates a necessity for sacrifice. People must be neglected in order to
pursue greatness. And that can produce deep-seated feelings of inadequacy,
guilt, and longing on all sides. Success on any level will often leave
those, who are not as successful, begging for a voice to be heard and
willing at any opportunity to tarnish the gloss that idols receive. Paulus
was an idol that Hannah refused to polish and as a result she coped by
trying to make a name for herself. From time to time we all become jealous
and capable of pushing away the things we truly love.
To fully explain the
complicated bond between Paul and Hannah Tillich is nearly impossible. The
culture, historical moment, and personalities of both Tillich's combined for
an intricate and unusual relationship. Its blatant protest against the
conventional lifestyle can be disconcerting and even offensive.
For Hannah Tillich to
attempt an explanation can only be described as courageous. Personally, I
feel this courage as it permeates through the pages of her autobiography,
From Time to Time. An unorthodox woman, Hannah Tillich writes with what
many readers do not expect: absolute honesty. She does not “pull any
punches.” She is bold, critical, and extremely self-reflective. Her style
can be eccentric, but when closely Hannah Tillich invites the reader to
intimately understand her life.
Often thought of as “a
biography of Paul Tillich,” From Time to Time is not centrally
concerned with the life and thought of Paul Tillich. He is only a part of
Hannah Tillich's story. I feel that is why reviewers and readers have
unappreciated this books' insight. They are excepting to hear about who and
what Paul Tillich was. However, this is a story about Hannah Tillich: a
German, an artist, a wife, and a mother.
The layout of the book
is a blend of poetry, fiction, and biography that constructs the “life of
Hannah Tillich,” as a play with the different acts representing the stages
of her life: childhood, youth, marriage, and the United States. Each of
these “acts” and their stories/memories are told as a “stream of
consciousness.” This style can be incoherent; however, its movement and
rhythm give insight into the personality of Hannah Tillich. Her thoughts and
stories are sporadic and seemingly random, but she shows the reader, leaving
out little detail, the most significant moments in her personal development.
Now please, let us all be seated. The show is about to begin...
Act I: Childhood
With vivid memory,
Hannah recalls the intense feelings and moments of her childhood. Her father
was school administrator and minister and her mother was an American, a
foreigner, who seemed to be a peculiar role model for Hannah (30-1). Her
mother had an independent spirit, indifferent to criticism and convention,
which seems to describe Hannah's lifestyle as well. She discusses her
parents by embodying the immaturity and naiveté of a childlike innocence.
Through the lens of child, Hannah avoids the tendency of some biographers to
rationalize the roles and relationships of their parents. The reader sees
who her parents were from a child's perspective, which supports to the
concept of the whole book as a chronological development of both her
thoughts and feelings.
into her early teens, describes the sexual relationships she has with two
women. She recounts, in detail, her first experiences of both giving and
receiving physical pleasure (51). These relationships may lead one to
conclude that she is a lesbian; however, Hannah seems to have had a more
complex understanding of her sexuality than that. There were accusations
from her school mates that she was a lesbian, a taboo both then and now
(65). It seems though that Hannah did not think in such polarized terms. Her
attraction was to beauty, with gender being secondary. Looking at her entire
life, one could frame her early sexual experiences as a sexual awakening
through lesbian encounters, and sexual understanding through her
Act II: Youth
She started art school
in 1911 (63). Finding her place within in art community, there was a
constant self-reflection that seems to have made people uncomfortable. Her
strong personality led to many tense relationships with her professors.
Perhaps it was arrogance or insecurity, but that is the gradual process of
maturation. However, at this time in Germany, many young people had to cope
with the change of life quickly as World War I began. Hannah claims that her
“narcissism died” around this time, as she became “hungry and holy” (76). We
are given a unique historical perspective in this part of the autobiography.
We do not hear the details of the “front line” war and its horror, but the
effects of war on common people in Germany who were depressed and starved.
During the war, Hannah finished art school and was able to find a position
as an art teacher for children (77). However, this did not last long as the
war ended and she was married.
The war's end brought
revolution to Germany. It was in this time of confusion and rebellion that
Hannah met Paulus. Their first meeting at the “Fancy-dress ball” in February
of 1919 was not “love at first sight” (83). Each of them was somewhat
passive in their first meeting. With their intense personalities, they
exchanged awkward pleasantries, but then were quickly intrigued by one
another. Paulus explained how Hannah reminded him of his recently deceased
sister (85). As he talked, Hannah felt connected to him, as if he was the
only human being amongst the reception.
In their following
encounters, Paulus and Hannah quickly became lovers. They each had a
magnetism that drew them closer and closer together. At this time, Paulus
was not officially divorced yet, and Hannah was betrothed to another man
(87). Pleading with her, Paulus and his friends begged Hannah to cancel her
engagement, but she refused saying she still did not trust Paulus (87).
However, she finally agreed to be with Paulus, but it would only be after
she was married for one year. It is almost incomprehensible why Hannah did
this, but it again shows her independence and strength, perhaps even
obstinacy. She had committed herself to another man, and it was her
responsibility to be with him, if only for a while.
Act III: Marriage
Hannah married Albert,
a man she had met during her days in art school. The relationship seems to
have been one Hannah could control. Albert adored her, thus beckoning to her
every whim (92-3). She continued her affair with Paulus while she was
married. It was finally after she became pregnant by Albert, a child that
she eventually lost, that she decided to leave for Paulus and Berlin. In a
cold act, Hannah left Albert with a note saying she was divorcing him (95).
Why did she keep a part that made her appear so disgusting in this
autobiography? Why did she not try to frame it better, as to not disgust the
reader? It is yet another example of her courage. She knew what she had done
was wrong and it was obviously something she had carried with her forever.
It was after the World War II that Hannah visited Albert again to apologize
for her terrible behavior (97). There was a soft reconciliation between the
two, a realization of emotional imbalance and selfishness.
In 1924, Hannah and
Paulus were married, but with the stipulation that the relationship stay
“open.” This meant that they could have sexual partners inside the marriage.
This is the part of their relationship that people tend to focus on the
most. It seems like such a foreign idea, but it was the time and place in
which they lived that brought about these ideas of marriage. Constantly
pushing the social limits, their community found that though boundaries
could be pushed to develop the mind; creativity could also be found in the
exploration of the body. It was with the understanding that Hannah began her
relationship with Heinrich, the man who “taught [her] how to make love”
(119). She became romantically involved with Heinrich, who was an ethics
scholar in Marberg at the time when Paulus began to teach at the university.
It is interesting to
see how she describes the development in Paulus' thought at this time. She
speaks of Paulus' interactions with Heidegger's philosophy in Marberg and
his monumental speech at the Kant Society. She expresses Paulus' development
and success with the utmost admiration and affection, calling him “the
instrument of the powers of thought; he was the word” (102). And
though she writes with this respect and care for Paulus, she is also
committed to the physical relationship that she fosters with Heinrich
(116-7). This is an example of how this open marriage worked. Though there
is the physical relationship with Heinrich, one can see her loyalty and love
for her husband. It expresses the complexity with which Hannah dealt with
her relationships. Much in the same way that Paulus did, she strained or
split herself so to accommodate the feelings and lives of those closest to
As the situation in
Germany gradually became more confused and enraged, Paulus began openly
speaking out against the rising National Socialist movement and its leader,
Adolf Hitler (149). Many Germans found the situation hopeless and began to
flee. Paulus, according to Hannah, was not one to flee. It seems as though
he would have stayed until the end, even if it meant his death. Hannah knew
this and loved him all the more for it (156). However, he realized his
responsibilities to his the family and by staying any longer, he was putting
them all in danger.
Act IV: The United States
The Tillich’s were able
to come to the United States after Paulus was offered a teaching position at
the Union Theological Seminary in New York (171). As Hannah discusses their
new lives in America, it seems like the shift from German to American
culture and social life was dramatic. There was superficiality about
American mannerisms, like the “friendly sociability,” that annoyed Hannah
(172). Becoming a seminary wife also troubled her. She was losing her sense
of independence and identity in this new setting; a setting that Paulus was
The United States was
beginning to recognize the voice of Paulus and the radicalism of his work.
He was catapulted into a higher level of fame and respect than he had in
Germany. With this new fame came more opportunities for lectures and
relationships, particularly sensual ones. Paulus would be traveling a great
deal, trying to make money to support the lifestyle that Hannah and he
refused to give up (184). With the increase in both of their sexual
partners, the new country, and fame, Hannah began to develop an estrangement
and disgust for Paulus. His own distance from the family did not help. She
came close to divorcing him, but was talked out of it (190).
The “other half of
fame” is never talked about publicly. Often, we see the respected figure on
a pedestal and forget that this figure, Paulus, has a family and life that
they trying to maintain in the wake of success. Hannah captures that side of
fame in her writing, showing the difficulty that both she had to deal with
alone, and in her relationship with Paulus.
It seems like their
relationship came to an understanding when Paulus was offered a position as
University Professor at Harvard University (197). It is towards the end of
her life with Paulus. Hannah found meditative practices to help cope with
her pent up emotions that had come from their long relationship. I get the
sense that Hannah realizes the value of time that they have left together
and it is in Boston that they begin to reconcile their complicated and
unconventional life. Paulus received another professorship at the University
of Chicago in 1962 and it was three years later that Paulus died. Their last
days together in the hospital were ones of restoration and love. They each
forgave the other for the pain that they caused. Sharing poems together and
reading letters was how Hannah comforted Paulus in his last days (223).
After his death, Hannah
returned to East Hampton. She remains strong through her loneliness and the
last few pages of the book show how this really was a telling of her
life with and without Paulus. She says, “I decided to look at my own life
and try to come to an awareness of what I had lived” (243), an important
quote to remember before judging the bias of this autobiography.
The curtain closes
How could a woman break
so many social and cultural taboos? How can someone be so “in-touch” with
who and what they are? The introspection of Hannah Tillich leaves some
annoyed and nervous. Her blunt honesty is offensive. We, as the public, are
used to more conservative and even Puritanical perspectives, particularly in
the United States. Hannah Tillich breaks down these notions and shows you
who she truly is.
By writing down her
experiences as a German who watches her country spiral out of control, an
artist who views and engages the world as creative and limitless, a wife who
shares a complex relationship with one of the most prolific theologians of
the 20th century, and a mother of two children, the reader should
feel a sense of empowerment. These pages give strength to overcome social
inconsistencies and embrace yourself for who you are. This book is about
owning your guilt and your hypocrisy. This book is about courage.
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