Simone Weil: Portrait of a Self-exiled Jew by Thomas R. Nevin

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By Thomas R. Nevin

Over fifty years after her loss of life, Simone Weil (1909-1943) is still essentially the most looking spiritual inquirers and political thinkers of the 20th century. Albert Camus acknowledged she had a "madness for truth." She rejected her Jewishness and built a powerful curiosity in Catholicism, even though she by no means joined the Catholic church. either an activist and a student, she regularly spoke out opposed to injustice and aligned herself with staff, with the colonial bad in France, and with the opressed far and wide. She got here to think that agony itself can be a option to team spirit with God, and her loss of life at thirty-four has been recorded as suicide through starvation.This impressive research is essentially a topography of Weil's brain, yet Thomas Nevin is persuaded that her inspiration is inextricably certain to her existence and dramatic instances. hence, he not just addresses her strategies and her prejudices yet examines her purposes for unique them and provides them a ancient concentration. He claims that to Weil's iteration the Spanish battle, the preferred entrance, the ascendance of Hitlerism, and the Vichy years weren't mere backdrops yet definitive events.Nevin explores intimately not just issues of continuous curiosity, resembling Weil's leftist politics and her try to embody Christianity, but in addition hitherto unexamined points of her existence and paintings which allow a deeper knowing of her: her writings on technological know-how, her paintings as a poet and dramatist, and her selective friendships. The thread uniting those subject matters is her fight to keep up her independence as a unfastened philosopher whereas resisting neighborhood corresponding to Judaism can have provided her. Her highbrow struggles eloquently demonstrate the determined isolation of Jews torn among the entice of assimilation and the tormented dignity in their communal history.Nevin's colossal examine attracts at the complete diversity of essays, notebooks, and fragments from the Simone Weil documents in Paris, lots of that have by no means been translated or released.

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Additional info for Simone Weil: Portrait of a Self-exiled Jew

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She had a tenacious will and, with her brother, knew how to wheedle and cajole their indulgent parents. Both could cry forced tears to get their way. Both were exceptionally bookish. Their parents gave them no toys so books were a means of escape from the child's inevitable sense of being hostage to fortune. André taught his sister how to Page 2 read. They memorized Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac, exchanged parts, and declaimed before their parents. It was in reading Balzac during childhood that Simone learned that "Jew" meant usurer.

Before he was ten, André had developed a keen ability in solving mathematical puzzles. Although not an exceptionally accomplished student, Simone showed facility in Latin and Greek. She learned English by listening to her brother's tutor, and both children learned German by overhearing their parents. Throughout her schooling Weil seems to have suffered from the sense that she was intellectually inferior to her brother, and her family, presuming him a genius, did not comfort her. 3 What is so striking here is not only her ascription of this exalting notion of desire to her early adolescencethe pertinent fact is not that she suffered but that she recalls that she suffered-as that she clothed her recollection in language suggesting a fairy tale.

She wanted to find out if factory work could be carried out without oppressing the worker, without, that is, taxing unduly one's mental and physical powers in cooperation. 46 But that intent, though possible or even likely, rings as too intellectual and rationalized to be a complete explanation. The assumption of isolation, the playing out of inadequacy and failure, might also be reckoned. To suggest as much seems condescending, even gratuitous, but there is warrant for it in the long essay she completed just before her leave took effect.

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