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.”