Asleep, She is a Horizon: On Simone Weil

Nicholas Vaifdar in Booklust:

BookIn 1943, Simone Weil lay dying. I have a private picture of those last days. I see her on a cot in rural England, in the green depths of that countryside, so pleasantly depressing under cloud cover to those eyes reared on California movies. Far off is the peevish thunder of late August and, even farther off, inaudibly across the channel, the disintegration of so much flesh and granite. Weil has withered to a stick figure in gray prole garb; her Gussie Fink-Nottle glasses rest with all the weight of artillery on her sharpened and sweaty nose. A cracked window admits the stink of humid vegetation into her Victorian sanitarium. This is a moment like any other, except for her soul it happens to be final, the last Pringle in the tube.

I have a reckless guess, too, about her last conscious and complete thought before her heavy mind dissolved. Earlier that year Weil had read Schopenhauer. Nothing wrong with that. Or, almost nothing: the tetchy bachelor of Frankfurt can have a weird effect on folks. Weil, for example, had stopped eating. Scholars disagree about her motive or even on whether this starvation was freely chosen and not a symptom of some deeper fleshly waste. I postulate that this most willful of women chose her own path to the grave. In doing so, she turned away from writing, working, teaching, experiencing sex, and even from seeing the day when her first book might appear in print. What a waste! the reader of her biography thinks, with all the snobbery that the living feel for the dead. Dead at thirty-four! And all that talent! And then, as an addendum, unconscious and implicit: Moron! She threw away the dearest thing she owned as if it were a careless trifle. And what for? To prove what? Here enters the influence of Schopenhauer. The first volume of The World as Will and Representation ends as follows:

…we freely acknowledge that what remains after the complete abolition of the will is, for all who are still full of the will, assuredly nothing. But also conversely, to those in whom the will has turned and denied itself, this very real world of ours with all its suns and galaxies is — nothing.

To the ascetic the world is nothing. Not seems, but is. Carnage was in stupid ascendance around the globe. But Weil had stopped eating and so the carnage was in a sense cancelled.

More here.