THE SIMONE WElL READER by George A.--Ed. Panicbas


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A purely human courage is required to renounce the whole of the temporal to gain the eternal,"" wrote Kierkegaard. He could have been describing Simone Weft who, in this extensive collection of her writings (drawn from her major works, her letters, and occasional papers), is revealed as a consciousness aspiring through a perpetual calvary to mystical ascent. ""Faith,"" Weft writes, ""is the indispensable condition."" But Well's faith--like her prose--searing in its power, its integrity, its humility, even, perhaps oddly, in its final simplicity, is the foundation of a spiritual quest shaped in paradoxical complexity and burned in anguish. Born a Jew of well-to-do parents, she identified with and consecrated her life to Christianity and the disenfranchised. Her social writing displays shrewdness and encompassing erudition of such magnitude that Camus considered ""Reflections Concerning the Causes of Liberty and Social Oppression"" unequalled after Marx. But her writing--now aphoristic, now lyrical, and nearly always incandescent in brilliance--increasingly reflects her obsession with spiritual perfection, attempting to reconcile divine perfection and the eternal with human misery and the temporal. But this is far too simple. Well's complexity is better suggested by an admiring friend, Gustav Thibon, who wrote: ""Simone Well oscillates between a pessimism which reduces man to nothingness and an optimism which raises him prematurely to divinity."" The recent Petrement biography lends interest and currency to this discerning compilation.

Pub Date: June 10th, 1977
Publisher: McKay