The Subversive Simone Weil—A Review

Seamus Flaherty read

Sample from the introduction to the review:

“How much time do you devote each day to thinking?” That’s a strange question to ask a nurse from one’s hospital bed, but Simone Weil was no ordinary patient. On the contrary, philosopher, mystic, and, at that time, member of the Provisional French government in London, Weil was in every sense extraordinary.

Praised by André Gide as the “patron saint of all outsiders,” known to her fellow students at the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) as the “Categorical Imperative in skirts,” and dismissed by Charles de Gaulle as “a crazy woman,” Weil was certainly unusual. At once charmingly amusing and maddeningly irritating without meaning to be either, Weil was a bona fide eccentric. As T.S. Eliot pointed out, one detects no sense of humour in Weil. Candid to a fault and always in dogged pursuit of the Good, she believed that thinking is what gives us dignity and protects us from tyranny. The unusual question she put to her nurse, in other words, was to her mind perfectly reasonable.

Quillette, July 30, 2021


Pacifist, soldier, mystic, saint: The complex identity of Simone Weil

Karen Olsson

Times Literary Supplement, July 16, 2021 (reviewing Robert Zaretsky’s The Subversive Simone Weil) century French philosopher.

“About a year and a half ago, a bookseller in Princeton, New Jersey, told me that she’d lately noticed an uptick in sales of titles by Simone Weil, the twentieth-century philosopher. Donald Trump had something to do with it, I imagined: living under a regime of facile lies, more readers had been drawn to Weil’s difficult search for truth. While these book-buyers were seeking her guidance on their own, Robert Zaretsky, a professor at the University of Houston, publicly tried to steer more readers to Weil, writing a series of essays, for outlets including the New York Times and Foreign Affairs, in which he invoked some of Weil’s ideas as correctives, a means of seeing our way past the ruts and bromides of contemporary politics. . . . “