SIMONE WEIL: A Modern Pilgrimage by Robert Coles

SIMONE WEIL: A Modern Pilgrimage

Email this review


The legendary Weil--part saint, part literary genius, part patroit, part mystic--holds a clear fascination for many, including Pulitzer winner Coles. Indeed, the key to her psychic cache is hard to find, but Coles puts his special gifts lo work in helping readers better understand this strange and tormented woman. She died at 34 from tuberculosis. At the time, she was unknown and unpublished, except for articles in obscure journals. Her death, like her life haunts with unanswered questions. Well refused to cooperate with her doctors or even to eat, so her end was a form of suicide. This young woman who came from a bourgeois French-Jewish family and excelled in her studies seemed an unlikely candidate for God-hunger and Christ-like sufferings. She arrived at them through a coalescence of various social influences and through the power of her own mind and spirit. She was a socialist, an almost-Catholic, a writer and a patriot. She studied Sanskrit and the early mystics until, in the end, she was a modern pilgrim in search of grace; her faith so idiosyncratic and so deviant as to constitute a private religion. Besides her intellectual gifts and spiritual quest, she was brave to the point of foolhardiness. She fought in Spain against fascists; she wanted to be a spy for the French; she begged to fight, really fight. Though she and her family were lucky to escape from Hitler, she wouldn't rest until she escaped New York for London and the Blitz. There she worked for the Free French and never gave up the hope of fighting, even as her health deteriorated. Weil was an intellectual who believed that one must put one's body on the line. In her case, the body was frail, but her will was indomitable, Cole's conversations with Anna Freud about this enigmatic figure are luminous points in a book already filled with passion and light. The author plucks from tortured ambiguities moments of clarity and wisdom.

Pub Date: June 25th, 1987
ISBN: 1893361349
Publisher: Addison-Wesley