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Abstract

The essay grew out of Hannah Arendt’s reflection on the roles and uses of the mask, a meditation on the ontology of the transient public figure or persona vs. one that restitutes the person to the unadulterated Selbstdenken dimension of the Epicurean philosopher-in-hiding. The author individuates in the resulting caesura between the donning and the taking off of the mask the primal source of that paradox in Hanna Arendt’s political behavior that alternately compelled her to confront the ontological presence of the Palestinian people, and made her withdraw into philosophical hiding without ever really coming to terms with it. In her writings, the Palestinians are never protagonists, rarely enjoy supporting roles, and most of the time remain unfortunate extras on a stage controlled by external actors who, sustained by the imperialist powers, suddenly donned their masks making themselves protagonists on a stage that was not theirs. To illuminate Arendt’s conceptual trajectory the author adopts as his guiding signposts W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz (2003), Palestinian artist Larissa Mansour’s Nation Estate (2013), Emily Horne’s and Tim Maly’s work The Inspection House (2014),and Hermann Broch’s The Death of Virgil. The adverb ‘towards’ in the title points to a path that has remained, as a result, without destination in Hanna Arendt’s political activity and philosophical thought pivoting around the native people of Palestine.