Sian Miles, ed., New York: Penguin (2005)
Arthur Wills trans., New York: Routledge
New York: Routledge; 2nd edition (2003)
Enter now Francine Du Plessix Gray and her Simone Weil. This concise biography is the latest installment in the remarkable Penguin Lives series. Gray, a respected novelist whose last book was an in-depth study of the Marquis de Sade, offers up her biography of Weil in a commanding and balanced birth-to-death manner. It is a sophisticated introduction to Simone Weil, to the complicated life and mind of a paradox quartered in an emaciated frame clad in ragtag clothes. Gray admirably covers much basic history — from Weil’s years at the Lycee Henri IV to her employment in heavy-industry factories to her involvement in the Free French movement — in a short space.
This fairly well-documented biography (which taps some French sources) ably captures several sides of Simone Weil: the “red virgin,” the “categorical imperative in skirts,” the “sergeant-major angel,” the estranged Jew, the first “postmodern theologian.” In one of her last letters, to her parents, Weil wrote: “There is within me a deposit of pure gold which must be handed on.” Indeed. Her genius spanned much ground from the contextual to the universal, the political to the spiritual, and the scientific to the aesthetic. With her, the personal was cerebral. Her life was her thought and vice-versa.
Washington Post, May 27, 2001 (book review). Reviewing Simone Weil: A Penguin Life by Francine Du Plessix Gray (2001)
London: Oxford University Press, Trans. Richard Rees, reprinted with foreword by Eric Springsted, Wipf and Stock
Arthur Wills trans., New York: Routledge (1956)