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Simone Weil: A Life in Letters

Robert Chenavier & André A. Devaux, editors read

    • Simone Weil: A Life in Letters (Belknap Press / Harvard University Press (Aug. 27, 2024), Robert Chenavier & André A. Devaux, editors, with Nicholas Elliott translator, and Marie-Noël Chenavier-Jullien, Annette Devaux, and Olivier Rey, contributors

The inspiring letters of philosopher, mystic, and freedom fighter Simone Weil to her family, presented for the first time in English.

Now in the pantheon of great thinkers, Simone Weil (1909–1943) lived largely in the shadows, searching for her spiritual home while bearing witness to the violence that devastated Europe twice in her brief lifetime. The letters she wrote to her parents and brother from childhood onward chart her intellectual range as well as her itinerancy and ever-shifting preoccupations, revealing the singular personality at the heart of her brilliant essays.

The first complete collection of Weil’s missives to her family, A Life in Letters offers new insight into her personal relationships and experiences. The letters abound with vivid illustrations of a life marked by wisdom as much as seeking. The daughter of a bourgeois Parisian Jewish family, Weil was a troublemaking idealist who preferred the company of miners and Russian exiles to that of her peers. An extraordinary scholar of history and politics, she ultimately found a home in Christian mysticism. Weil paired teaching with poetry and even dabbled in mathematics, as evidenced by her correspondence with her brother, André, who won the Kyoto Prize in 1994 for the famed Weil Conjectures.

A Life in Letters depicts Simone Weil’s thought taking shape amid political turmoil, as she describes her participation in the Spanish struggle against fascism and in the transatlantic resistance to the Nazis. An introduction and notes by Robert Chenavier contextualize the letters historically and intellectually, relating Weil’s letters to her general body of writing. This book is an ideal entryway into Weil’s philosophical insights, one for both neophytes and acolytes to treasure.”


Hannah Arendt and Simone Weil: Political Thinkers in Dialogue

Kathryn Lawson & Joshua Livingstone, eds. read

Abstract: Hannah Arendt and Simone Weil were two of the most compelling political thinkers of the 20th century who, despite having similar life-experiences, developed radically distinct political philosophies. This unique dialogue between the writings of Arendt and Weil highlights Arendt’s secular humanism, her emphasis on heroic action, and her rejection of the moral approach to politics, contrasted starkly with Weil’s religious approach, her faith in the power of divine Goodness, and her other-centric ethic of suffering and affliction.

The writings here respect the profound differences between Arendt and Weil whilst pulling out the shared preoccupations of power, violence, freedom, resistance, responsibility, attention, aesthetics, and vulnerability. Without shying away from exploring the more difficult concepts in these philosophers’ works, Hannah Arendt and Simone Weil also aims to pull out the relevance of their writings for contemporary issues.

About the editors

  • Kathryn Lawson is a Researcher at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada. She contributes to the online archive project on Simone Weil, Attention, and is the author of several book chapters on continental philosophy, religion and Arendt and Weil.
  • Joshua Livingstone is a Researcher at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He is author of a forthcoming book chapter on Hannah Arendt.


  • Additional references to works on Weil and Arendt can be found here.



Simone Weil’s Political Philosophy: Field Notes from the Margins (2023)

Benjamin Davis read

In this book, Benjamin P. Davis demonstrates how Simone Weil’s Marxism challenges current neoliberal understandings of the self and of human rights. Explaining her related critiques of colonialism and of political parties, it presents Weil as a twentieth-century political philosopher who anticipated and critically responded to the most contemporary political theory.

Simone Weil’s short life (1909–1943) is best understood as deeply invested in and engaged with the world around her, one she knew she would leave behind sooner rather than later if she continued to take risks on the side of the oppressed.

In this important and timely book, Davis presents Simone Weil first and foremost as a political philosopher. To do so, he places Weil’s political writings in conversation with feminist philosophy, decolonial philosophy, aesthetic theory, human rights discourse, and Marxism. Against the backdrop of Weil’s commitments, Davis reads Weil explicitly into debates in contemporary Critical Theory. Davis argues that in the battles of today, we urgently need to reconnect with Simone Weil’s ethical and political imagination, which offers a critique of oppression as part of a deeper attention to the world.

Advance Praise

In this moving account of Simone Weil’s political thought, Benjamin Davis merges world history and personal testimony, theory and living, brain and heart. He shows that one’s scholarship and one’s life cannot be separated easily.

Christy Wampole, Princeton University

About the Author

Benjamin P. Davis is a postdoctoral fellow in ethics at the University of Toronto. Davis’s scholarship is in the areas of human rights, Decolonial Theory, and Caribbean Philosophy. He has articles published or forthcoming in The CLR James Journal, The Journal of the Caribbean Philosophical Association, Transmodernity: Journal of Peripheral Cultural Production of the Luso-Hispanic World, and Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development. He is also Vice President of the American Weil Society.


Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (March 15, 2023 / 184 pp) (link here).