Everyone who read Jacques Cabaud’s Simone Weil, the first extensive biography of Weil would have recognized the name, Simone Deitz. Deitz, who was Weil’s companion in both New York and London, appears regularly. Moreover, she was the source of much of Cabaud’s material for that time in Weil’s life. While some of the material is carried over into Petrement’s biography, the name of Simone Deitz disappeared. So it went, it seemed, in the 1960s and 1970s. People who knew Weil were certainly still around; their names would pop up, and a reminiscence would be published.
It was to my great surprise that, in 1983 after the third year of the American Weil Society colloquies, I received a call at my home from Simone Deitz. I was delighted to talk to her and hear her many stories. In the summer of the next year, I was able to meet with her for an afternoon at her home in Springfield, MA, where she had been teaching for many years. We went over her recollections and the materials she had. What was of special interest was her claim that she was the one who had baptized Simone Weil shortly before her death.
In 1988, because her proximity made it possible, I arranged for her to travel from Springfield to Cambridge, MA where the eigth annual colloquy of the AWS was being held at Harvard University. She was enthusiastic about the papers she heard. On Friday evening, she ate with all of us at the Harvard Faculty Club, and then afterward took questions about her recollections of Simone Weil, and her experiences of her.
With the aid of a home video camera (new technology then), I recorded the conversation which we have now digitized and are able to put on Attention’s YouTube channel. Meeting and hearing Deitz was a unique opportunity. I am delighted that we are now able to share it widely. The questions and reflections are perhaps a bit random, the way conversations often are. But they give a sense of Weil as a person, and also some of how her biography has been able to be assembled. That is not always without controversy.
Simone Deitz continued to live in Springfield. She died, according to my best recollection, about 2000.
- YouTube video link here.
Eric Springsted is on Attention’s advisory board. His most recent book is Simone Weil for the Twenty-First Century (2021). He is also the co-editor (with Ronald Collins) of A Declaration of Duties Toward Humankind: A Critical Companion to Simone Weil’s The Need for Roots (2023).2 Recommendations