The Visionaries

The Visionaries

Arendt, Beauvoir, Rand, Weil and the Salvation of Philosophy


'The question Eilenberger sets out to answer in this ambitious, enthralling book: what use is philosophy in the middle of a war?' The Sunday Times

The year is 1933. Hannah Arendt escapes Berlin, seeking refuge among the stateless gathering in Paris. Simone de Beauvoir reimagines the dance between consciousness and the world outside in a Rouen café. Ayn Rand labours in Hollywood exile on the novel she believes destined to reignite the flame of liberty in her adoptive nation. Simone Weil, disenchanted with the revolution's course in Russia, devotes her entire being to the plight of the oppressed. Over the next decade, one of the darkest in Europe's history, these four philosophers will conceive in parallel ideas that would circle the globe in the second half of the century, reshaping it.

The Visionaries follows in its protagonists' footsteps from Leningrad to New York, Spain at civil war to France under occupation, as each is uprooted by totalitarianism's ascendence. It shows them facing the injustices, unfreedom and unfathomable violence of their time as women, refugees, activists, resistance fighters - but above all as thinkers. Wolfram Eilenberger expertly distils the radical philosophies each lived as well as created, showing the two to be part of the same story, all testament to the redemptive power of thought.


  • This book demands close attention; it rewards rereading; it tackles big ideas unapologetically. In short, Eilenberger treats you like a grown-up ... This is a wonderful book
    Laura Hackett, The Sunday Times

About the author

Wolfram Eilenberger

Wolfram Eilenberger is a founding editor of Philosophie Magazin and host of the Sternstunde Philosophie television programme. He has taught philosophy at the University of Toronto, Indiana University, the Berlin University of the Arts and ETH Zürich. His most recent book, Time of the Magicians, was a runaway bestseller on publication in Germany, where it won the prestigious Bayerischer Buchpreis, as well as in Spain and Italy, and has been translated into more than thirty languages.
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