The Unexemplary Simone Weil

Alexa Hazel at The Point:

Simone Weil was difficult for those who knew her in life and no less difficult for those who encounter her now, through the writings that survived her death at the age of 34 in 1943. Robert Zaretsky’s new intellectual biography, The Subversive Simone Weil: A Life in Five Ideas (2021), evokes several difficulties in its epilogue. Weil’s character was “extreme.” Her ideas were largely impractical (“at worst inhuman”). He calls her attitude “merciless.” And yet, “I cannot resist returning time and again to this remarkable individual,” Zaretsky writes. She led an “exemplary” life. “For many of her readers,” he suggests, “Weil’s life has all the trappings of secular sainthood.”

Some do take a strong stance on Weil (saint, insane). Many more find themselves in what Zaretsky calls an “untenable position.” T.S. Eliot alludes to Weil’s “great soul” several times in his preface to the English translation of The Need for Roots. Eliot echoes Albert Camus, who collected and published much of Weil’s work after her death, and once called her “the only great spirit of our time.”

more here.