Grand Hotel Abyss

Grand Hotel Abyss:The Lives of the Frankfurt School

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Who were the Frankfurt School — Benjamin, Adorno, Marcuse, Horkheimer — and why do they matter today?

In 1923, a group of young radical German thinkers and intellectuals came together to at Victoria Alle 7, Frankfurt, determined to explain the workings of the modern world. Among the most prominent members of what became the Frankfurt School were the philosophers Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse. Not only would they change the way we think, but also the subjects we deem worthy of intellectual investigation.

Grand Hotel Abyss combines biography, philosophy, and storytelling to reveal how the Frankfurt thinkers gathered in hopes of understanding the politics of culture during the rise of fascism. Some of them, forced to escape the horrors of Nazi Germany, later found exile in the United States. By taking popular culture seriously as an object of study—whether it was film, music, ideas, or consumerism—the Frankfurt School elaborated upon the nature and crisis of our mass-produced, mechanised society. Grand Hotel Abyss shows how much these ideas still tell us about our age of social media and runaway consumption.


  • Marvellously entertaining, exciting and informative. Jeffries is no idolator of great reputations, and his treatment of Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse and Jürgen Habermas is refreshingly breezy, though never less than serious and carefully judged.

    John BanvilleGuardian, Books of the Year
  • Attempts something rather daring ... An easily accessible, funny history of one of the more formidable intellectual movements of the 20th century ... an easy, witty, pacy read

    Owen HatherleyGuardian
  • This seemingly daunting book turned out to be an exhilarating page-turner…Grand Hotel Abyss is an outstanding critical introduction to some of the most fertile, and still relevant, thinkers of the 20th century

    Michael DirdaWashington Post