Together in Solitude: The Carefully Bound Friendship of Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy

arent and McCarthy 1960s
Arendt and McCarthy in the 1960s, courtesy Hannah Arendt Trust and the Hannah Arendt Papers (


At the end of Mary McCarthy’s 1975 eulogy for her dear friend Hannah Arendt, which was later published as an essay called “Saying Good-Bye to Hannah” in McCarthy’s book Occasional Prose, McCarthy tells an anecdote about a visit that Arendt paid her at her home in Maine. It was the summer after Arendt’s husband, Heinrich Blücher, died, and in preparation for Arendt’s visit, McCarthy purchased groceries with which to stock the kitchen of the private apartment where she planned to house Arendt. McCarthy knew that Arendt “liked to breakfast alone,” and in an effort to make her friend feel comfortable, purposely selected items that Arendt kept in her own home, including eggs, ham, instant coffee, and anchovy paste, an atypical grocery that McCarthy was especially pleased to have found. As soon as Arendt eyed the anchovy paste, she started glaring at the tube, visibly unsettled, and asked McCarthy, “What is that?” as if she didn’t recognize the product.

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