Not Looking Away


by Aishwarya Iyer

The Subversive Simone Weil: A Life in Five Ideas
Robert Zaretsky
Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2020. 200 pp

Simone Weil died a couple of years before the end of the Second World War at the age of 34 in a sanatorium and was buried in a cemetery in Kent. The cause of her death was starvation and the refusal of treatment for tuberculosis, or rather a refusal to eat more than those in occupied France. Despite an early death, during her life she had ‘fought’[1] in the Spanish Civil War, been a worker at a factory for electrical locomotives, taught philosophy at schools (where she refused to give grades) and made recommendations to Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the Free French Forces during the Second World War, about flying nurses directly into the battlefield. About eighty years later, her ideas continue to throw light upon an age dulled by the proliferation of choice (for the few) and hampered by an extreme difficulty to grasp what sort of action might transform the given world. Christy Wampole has said in Aeon: ‘A Weil revival is underway, in part due to the surges in nationalism, populism, tribalism, nativism about which she had so much to say in her work.’ Robert Zaretsky in his biography shows readers how Weil’s thought is significant to unsettling the shibboleths of this present age, ‘individualism’ for instance, and is therefore a welcome introduction to her thought and life, for all of us who, trapped as we are as insects in the formative resin of modern life, still continue to seek ways out.

It is not exactly clear when the Weil revival began. Anne Carson’s experimental book of essays, opera and poetry, Decreation (2005) relied heavily on the evidence of Weil’s presence in the philosophical firmament. Dramatising her life story, bringing in Weil’s mother, her father and the Void as co-creators and characters, Carson devised a literary portrait in her opera, which drew as much from the letter of Weil’s life as its spirit. Sixteen years later, Zaretsky’s biography is rich in sources it draws upon, amongst them Weil’s papers and the standard biographies by Simone Pétrement and Francine du Plessis Gray which, Zaretsky points out, are compelling partly due to their resistance towards the hagiographic. Weil biographies in English do indeed abound[2], and the relation between her biography and her thought has often eclipsed the latter, leading to Weil not being given her due as a philosopher.

Zaretsky’s work aims to remedy this lacuna. The book is divided into five chapters, picking five ideas that were crucial to Weil’s thought: ‘affliction’, ‘attention’, ‘resistance’, ‘roots’ and ‘the good’. In doing so, he intertwines anecdotes from her life, her formation and political activism along with the development of her thought, nestling the latter amidst the thoughts of her contemporaries as well as that of writers who carried her legacy forwards after her death. The reason to intermix accounts of her thought and action he draws from Weil herself, who believed that the philosopher’s mandate was ‘exclusively an affair of action and practice.’[3] Weil was infamously militant about closing the distance between thought and action as much as possible and this earned her epithets such as ‘crazy’ (by Charles de Gaulle) and ‘melancholy revolutionary’ (by Leon Trotsky). Indeed, Zaretsky argues: ‘To a degree rare in the modern age—or indeed, any age—Simone Weil fully inhabited her philosophy.’[4] If in his Theses on Feuerbach, Karl Marx had famously counterposed philosophy and action – ‘Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.’ – thereby critiquing philosophy but also arguing for the necessity to think through praxis, action and change, Weil’s life and thought offer not only a reconciliation of Marx’s opposed terms, but a re-evaluation of the idea of ‘thinking’ itself. And perhaps she is not the last of such philosophers. A few years ago, Anne Dufourmantelle, French philosopher and psychoanalyst, who theorised the idea of risk-taking[5] in a neoliberal world ordered around the reduction of risk and the increase of security, died while trying to rescue two drowning children in the Mediterranean sea.

In her Oeuvres Complètes, Weil wrote: ‘To recount the lives of great figures in separation from the oeuvre itself…necessarily ends up revealing their pettiness above all, because it is in their work that they have put the best of themselves.”[6] We can be sure she was not referring to herself proleptically here, but her words do insist upon a logic of relation between life and work, where what is biographical appears analogous to the details of human ‘personality’, about which she wrote in the landmark essay ‘Human Personality’ in 1942-43[7]:

There is something sacred in every man, but it is not his person. Nor yet is it the human personality. It is this man; no more and no less.

I see a passer-by in the street. He has long arms, blue eyes, and a mind whose thoughts I do not know, but perhaps they are commonplace.

It is neither his person, nor the human personality in him, which is sacred to me. It is he. The whole of him. The arms, the eyes, the thoughts, everything. Not without infinite scruple would I touch anything of this.

If it were the human personality in him that was sacred to me, I could easily put out his eyes. As a blind man he would be exactly as much a human personality as before. I should not have touched the person in him at all. I should have destroyed nothing but his eyes.


So far from its being his person, what is sacred in a human being is the impersonal in him.

Everything which is impersonal in man is sacred, and nothing else.[8]

This quotation offers a taste of the form of paradoxical reasoning that Weil employed in order to arrive at a philosophical formulation. The critique of personality allowed Weil to devise a situated appraisal of rights discourse, political parties and unthinking participation in collectivity and collectives of any sort. For someone, who as a child proudly called herself a ‘Bolshevik’, who later drew heavily from Marxian theory and who organised workers, this criticality emerged in the crucible of the political atmospheres of the time, primarily Stalinism and Fascism – and for good reason. She did not live long enough to see what the Nazis were capable of, but in her writings had begun to record the social deterioration that resulted from a widespread bureaucratisation of life under capitalism after the First World War – in institutions such as the party, the church and the union – whether in Russia or America, and argued that the given models and ideas of revolutionary transformation were flawed, inadequate and, worse, detrimental. She had been trained as a philosopher and her critique of the materialist analysis of capitalism drew from Plato, Kant and Descartes, as well as religious traditions that included Catholic Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Greek tragedy[9]. What scholars have called the ‘spiritual turn’ in her thought, was in fact a move towards making the transformation of consciousness both possible and thinkable, at the level of the individual. In such thought, the personal is all that associates itself with prestige, titles, comparative evaluation, even invidiousness – which are all not just symptoms but contents of social consciousness under capitalism. Her thought strove to make possible movement to the limits of the personal, as ground for action. For her, ‘personality’ is secondary to and even an obstruction to that which exists in everyman equally – ‘the impersonal’. The work of writing, for Weil, allowed her to come closer to this aspect of the human situation. And, therefore, it was neither in her actions, nor in her biography, that she was fully denuded of her personality. Only in her philosophical writings did she come closest to striving towards the impersonal.[10] In that sense, the movement towards her ideas away from traditional hagiography in Zaretsky’s book resonates well with Weil’s critique of personality.

Of European philosophers and writers of the twentieth century, there were several who were touched by the intensity of her insight. Of these, Zaretsky mentions and briefly discusses Hannah Arendt, who considered Weil’s analysis of the labour question in La Condition ouvriere ‘the only book which deals with the problem without prejudice and sentimentality’[11] and whose distinction between ‘labour’ and ‘work’ was illuminated by Weil’s ideas. Indeed, for Weil, to accept the hierarchy between manual and intellectual labour was to accede to the forms of slavery that defined the zeitgeist without thought. If, under capitalism, the spiritual content of labour was extracted out of it in a bid to maximise production and profit so that the labourer subject to mechanical necessities became a thing, Weil sought to bring the spirit back into the moment of subjection and slavery. In ‘The Mysticism of Work’, she said: ‘Workers need poetry more than bread. They need that their life should be a poem. They need some light from eternity. […] Religion alone can be the source of such poetry.’[12] The return to the spirit in the moment of extractive labour could have multiple effects – the labouring individual would be able to retain some strength to view her situation with moral clarity instead of looking away from it… Zaretsky also shows us how Albert Camus’ idea of ‘rebellion’ was greatly indebted to Weil’s ideas of rebellion, even as Camus, the philosopher of the absurd, was an atheist and differed from Weil in her religious preoccupations. Lastly, in the fifth chapter, he details how the novelist and moral philosopher Iris Murdoch’s Platonism and the idea of the transcendental Good that should inform human affairs, was inspired by Weil’s Christian Platonism. These sections in the book where Zaretsky contextualises Weil’s ideas amongst those of her peers (such as George Orwell) and those who came after her condense vast swathes of material to present key arguments, differences and developments, and will be of great use to the curious reader. And yet sometimes the very act of placing Weil alongside others seems to achieve the opposite effect – that of blunting the shocking extremity of her writing. One also wonders why other continental philosophers who were influenced by her ideas like Maurice Blanchot, Emmanuel Levinas and Giorgio Agamben (whose idea of ‘bare life’ is indebted to Weil’s thought) are left out of this selection.

The other aspect of the book which is particularly gripping is the manner in which Weil’s life, the broad historical events of her time (including the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War) and her relationships with her interlocutors (such as Gustave Thibon, the anti-semitic Catholic theologian-farmer, and Joseph Marie Perrin, a Dominican priest who was a philo-semite) are imbricated closely with her ideas in key texts. Thibon and Perrin were the two figures she engaged with on the topic of Christianity and she left her unpublished writings with both of them. Particularly striking is the account of Simone de Beauvoir’s meeting with Weil, possibly during their time at the École Normale Supérieure, an event found by Zaretsky in Beauvoir’s Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter. The two seem to have differed in their understanding of telos (or purpose) in human life: Beauvoir arguing for the significance of ‘meaning’, and Weil for something more immediate – ‘happiness’. This exchange on the Chinese famine of 1928–1930 seemed to have been the first and last between the two. Beauvoir and Weil, one may say, differed considerably on the question of social transformation. For the former, the future is open, changeable and constructible through the exercise of positive human freedom. For Weil, human action may achieve transformation of the world only in its negative aspect – through self-emptying or decreation, an idea she drew from the Christian kenosis.

In ‘The Force of Affliction’, the opening chapter of the book, Zaretsky takes us through Weil’s experience of working at the factory at Alsthom, where human beings through the mechanical aspect of labour are turned into veritable slaves[13]. Weil turned to the factory to experience the condition of workers, not merely to ‘understand’ them from a safe distance. An account of her time and psychological deterioration at the factory – where she had the feeling ‘that it wasn’t worth the effort to pay attention to protecting myself’[14] – is contextualised alongside the ideas in her landmark essay ‘Iliad, or the Poem of Force’. While this latter essay is a marvellous exercise in literary analysis and philosophical criticism, its reference to the political atmosphere of the time remains covert and implicit. The main protagonist of The Iliad, Weil argues, is not this or that character but force itself, and all we may observe via the epic is how, under the inscrutable order of fate, force leaves its imprint on the bodies of men, heroes and slaves alike, turning them into things, helpless, even inert. Zaretsky seems to suggest that the idea that in the modern world ‘power’ brutally marked itself on human beings in factories, to the extent that they had been turned to things, is also found in the Greek epic. What then can the human being do? Even before we may turn to this question, Weil seems to have intuited, it was more important to understand what the encounter with ‘force’ or ‘power’ does to a human being. This is where she brings in the idea of ‘affliction’. Different from mere suffering, affliction is a state that leaves the one in it outside of all expression. Apart from its illegibility to the afflicted, it is incomprehensible to the onlooker – here empathy is not adequate. Affliction forces everyone to turn away from it – that is its awful nature. It is characterised by Job’s plea: ‘Annul the day that I was born.’[15] Here Weil makes an impossible demand: that the only use one can make of affliction is to fully attend to it, to draw nigh to ‘truth’.

Unlike altruism or empathy, paying attention to the afflicted is an exercise in the absolute removal of self. It is a negative effort or a form of radical reception. At the same time, because paying attention is so rare in the world, and so systematically rendered near impossible by cultural and historical patterns and energies, it is resistance to the world as it is. In his second chapter ‘Paying Attention’, Zaretsky astutely contextualises this Weilian idea by referring to William James, René Descartes, Pierre Hadot, Marcus Aurelius, Immanuel Kant and Iris Murdoch, and shows how distinct Weilian ‘attention’ is from the formulations of other philosophers, old and new. He also shows us that, for Weil, paying attention is equal to seeing clearly. Weil says:

Anything within the field of action which does not constitute an obstacle—as, for instance, men deprived of the power to refuse—is transparent for thought in the way completely clear glass is for sight. It has no power to stop, just as our eyes have no power to see the glass.[16]

Just as we do not easily notice glass, yet easily look through it, men reduced to the status of things – unable to articulate their refusal – are seen through, are not even noticed. And this is the way power continues to be enacted upon them, through the activity of non-seeing. The purpose of developing the faculty of attention is to be able to expose all obstacles to clear sight, in the manner that one sees the glass that one is ordinarily accustomed to seeing through, to be able to see the oppressed as human beings instead of the things that they are habitually turned into. Obviously, in Weil’s thought, ‘being seen’ takes on a completely different meaning. To be able to see clearly, truthfully, becomes an almost insurmountable challenge. She, who is seen, attains something she did not have before – a fuller view of her condition, greater moral clarity. Unlike the ancient Greeks in Homer’s epic, who were able to see into their condition even as the brute forces of war and Moira (Fate) imprinted themselves, the human beings of the modern world suffer from moral blindness. Deceit, dissimulation and bad faith define the experience of modern subjectivity, wherein one constantly turns away from the awareness of multiple complicities and the question of action. Here Zaretsky offers an example from his life that might be recognisable for a majority of the readers of The Subversive Simone Weil: he meets a homeless panhandler on Interstate 45 and passes him by. The ethical impasse that he inhabits falls short of Weil’s ideal; to meet it would mean having to dismantle one’s life and opening it to radical risk in the moment of paying ‘attention’ to such a person. He finds himself lacking. At the same time that Zaretsky persuades us of the significance and power of Weil’s ideas, he also admits to their impossibility (to him).

In Weil’s moral universe there is a clear distinction between truth and falsehood, where error is the non-knowledge of truth, and falsehood the suppression of it.[17] Weil’s attention to truthfulness takes the wind out of the sails of the concept of the unconscious in psychoanalysis. The precise moment of obfuscation for her begins when we project on to the world, its objects and persons our own ‘subjective’ meanings and expectations without regard for the thing or person that presents itself, asking to be attended to. Weil posits the absolute knowability of the entity via attention, by which the entity and the one who offers attention are both raised to a higher level of truth.

The chapter ‘The Varieties of Resistance’ details the sources and ambit of Weil’s idea of resistance and shows us that in her short life Weil moved through several ideas often regarded to be in conflict – pacifism, violence, ‘engagement’, the virtue of obedience (along with resistance), sacrifice, duty and thinking. At the root of all these ideas of resistance is the necessity to think and to take upon oneself the task of maintaining one’s dignity ‘in a world given over to “collectivity”’[18]. The views of her teacher Émile Chartier, her early resistance to joining the French Communist Party, her disillusionment with the Spanish Civil War – where in an unexpected jolt she discovered her complicity in the killing of innocents – and her friendship with the fisherman Marcel Lecarpentier that allowed her to ‘declass’ herself, provide the context in this section of the book. Zaretsky abandons chronology to show us the correspondences between Weil’s life and thought, succeeding remarkably well. For instance, in this chapter, Zaretsky is able to show us Weil’s clear-eyed take on violence. Aware of Gandhian non-violence and even drawn to it as a pacifist, Weil rejects it in the face of the Nazi onslaught knowing that even in rejecting non-violence ‘justice is not fated to prevail…just as goodness alone will not carry the day.’[19] Nothing less than the orientation of a Sophoclean hero who ‘holds on and never lets himself be corrupted by misfortune’[20] is required for one who takes on the cross of using violence to win peace:

Anyone unable to be as brutal, violent and inhuman as someone else, but who also does not practice the opposing virtues, falls short of that person in inner strength and stature, and will not triumph in a confrontation.[21]

By the last two chapters, Zaretsky begins to pay overt attention to the religious aspect of Weil’s work, albeit by fashioning it towards a secular readership. To insist upon the religious aspect of her work, it appears, would do her disservice when presenting her to overwhelmingly non-religious readers. In the early twenty-first century, religion is associated with authoritarianism, false consciousness, terrorism and narrow-mindedness in the broadly liberal public sphere. But Weil was an agnostic until her explicitly religious experience in 1938. And after that, she went on to interpret the ungraspability of God as a necessary absence in the world. Until the end of her short life, she refused to formally obtain membership in the Church, despite serious persuasion. Given this context, Zaretsky is at pains to show us that ‘rootedness’ for Weil is not of the same order as that of right-wing conservatives such as Charles Maurras and Maurice Barrès who were among the prime parties to accuse Alfred Dreyfus of treason against France for his commitment to the Jewish faith in the late nineteenth century, or even as that of the English conservative Edmund Burke, who submitted to serious reservations about the French Revolution. Written in London during in the last few months of her life in 1943 while she was ailing from tuberculosis, The Need for Roots offers both diagnosis and succour for modern alienation – in factories, fields of war, colonialism and in the phenomenon of urban migration. Weil goes further than Marxian alienation (of man from the activity of labour, from the product of his labour and from his species-being)[22] in stressing upon the psychological and spiritual aspects of alienation which leads to a modern ‘homelessness’, where the

majority of working men…have experienced the sensation of no longer existing, accompanied by an inner vertigo such as intellectuals or bourgeois, even in their greatest sufferings, have very rarely had the opportunity of knowing.[23]

Ultimately, Weil’s remedy is to find ways to reconnect to sources of strength and self-regard which emerge from one’s community. Zaretsky argues convincingly that Weil’s attachment to France – yes, her patriotism – is not the same as nationalism; while the former organises community by sympathy for fellowmen, the latter is animated by hatred of the other. Her patriotism was equally compatible with a call for urgent decolonisation of the French colonies. In an age of bigoted and authoritarian nationalisms across the globe, the need to differentiate between Weil’s turn to roots and the poisonous kind is essential. In undivided India, Rabindranath Tagore too maintained a staunch critique of nationalism while embracing and goading aspects of its ‘civilisation’. Speaking of the soil of one’s country, Weil says that while it may have ‘been produced by a network of causes in which good and evil, justice and injustice have been mixed up together’ and ‘cannot be the best possible one…past events are over and done with; the particular medium happens to be in existence and, such as it is, deserves to be guarded like a treasure for the good it contains.’[24] In a very interesting association, Zaretsky finds Martha Nussbaum’s capabilities-approach already foreshadowed in Weil’s text, when the latter lists fourteen needs of the soul. While the evil in the soil of one’s land must be neutralised, it cannot be done without recourse to the good available in its very soil. For the same reason, Weil taught ancient Greek literature to workers, so that the aesthetic experience of reading tragedies brought upon them a recognition of their own condition.

Zaretsky treats Weil’s anti-Jewishness with a light hand in his final chapter and places her mysticism in the lineage of the Jewish mysticism of Isaac Luria, the founder of Kabbalism in the sixteenth century. The removal of self in her theory of attention and her notion of decreation are one and the same, and, as Zaretsky shows, available ideas in Jewish mystic tradition. If God is the creator of the world, man can respond only by decreating herself in the world in order to make God present again. To make God present – this is intimately connected with Weil’s ideas of the Good and justice. It is not positive human action or, as Simone Kotva argues, ‘effort’[25] alone that produces Good in the world, but instead the reception of God. Even here, Zaretsky takes recourse to Murdoch’s secular ideas of Good in order to translate Weil to his purported audience. While his strategy allows his readers to survey the influence of Weil on other philosophers, it betrays an anxiety native to our time. Despite the presence of religion in most degraded forms in many places across the world in contemporary public life and government, it is excruciatingly difficult for us to look at religious ideas as something more than ‘the opium of the masses’, let alone as philosophical food. The moment Weil’s ideas are translated into Murdoch’s register of ego psychology, they become rather tame.

A minor quibble: one wonders why Weil’s ideas about aesthetics did not find space in the book. In a section called ‘Evil’ in Gravity and Grace (put together by the farmer-theologian Thibon) Weil says:

Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvellous, intoxicating. Therefore ‘imaginative literature’ is either boring or immoral (or a mixture of both). It only escapes from this alternative if in some way it passes over to the side of reality through the power of art—and only genius can do that.[26]

The distinctly Platonic distinctions between the imaginary and the real assert the importance of, and need for, seeing clearly. The philosophic eye plainly (à la Plato) dominates her conceptions of the literary. Only genius can serve the idea of ‘real good’. Literature and art are valuable only when they raise us towards the transcendental Good. For a thinker who drew upon literature in her writing, who taught it with vision and whose writings are full of references to ‘beauty’ and the ‘beautiful’, one would have liked to read Zaretsky’s approach to her aesthetics.

If human beings are not simply means towards ends, but ends in themselves – and the discovery and projection of their freedom is instrumental to the growth of the world and the nearing of the future – then Simone Weil presents us with a paradox. The kenotic idea of decreation – removing oneself so that grace may operate through one – makes of the human a quasi-divine instrument, even a hero. This is not the realm of history, which Weil had critiqued.[27] And yet, for her, every human outside of oneself is an absolute end, for the alleviation of whose affliction one must employ the practice of ‘attention’. This is perhaps why Weil is referred to as a saint. We read her to confront and open up our contradictions. We read her, as Murdoch says, ‘to be reminded of a standard’[28].

A deeply satisfying book, Zaretsky presents to us the life of a philosopher-mystic completely at odds with our times, but one who presents to us ways of raising ourselves in word and deed in the modern age. It is sure to send readers into the work of the multiple philosophers strewn throughout the book, in whose midst Weil reluctantly finds her home. For a book filled with philosophical ideas, it is remarkably easy to read. It will be useful for the curious reader and scholar alike.


About the Author

Raised in India and Bahrain, Aishwarya Iyer has moved through many cities for education and work, and to find a way in the world. Presently, she teaches at O.P. Jindal Global University in Sonipat, India. Her first book of poems, The Grasp of Things, will be published by Copper Coin in 2022, an early version of which was shortlisted for the Almost Island Manuscript Competition in 2015. Her poems have appeared in journals such as The Bombay Literary Magazine (TBLM), Humanities Underground, Almost Island, Muse India and Poetry at Sangam, among others. She was the recipient of the Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize in 2015. Her fiction is forthcoming in TBLM.


[1] Weil had embedded herself as a journalist in the militia of the National Labour Confederation (CNT) in Spain, but she could not successfully wield a gun during her time in Spain, largely owing to an early accident during her time there.

[2] A glance at the Oxford Bibliography by David Levy offers a useful list with brief annotations.

[3] Simone Weil, First and Last Notebooks, trans. Richard Rees (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), 335; quoted in Robert Zaretsky, The Subversive Simone Weil: A Life in Five Ideas (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2021), 2

[4] Zaretsky, The Subversive Simone Weil, 3.

[5] Arguably, ‘risk-taking’ as we understand it in common-sensical parlance has undergone a crude transformation in the pandemic. To take a risk in its context is not only to put one’s life in danger but also to put those very others at risk who demand intervention, help or intimacy from you. In other words, as the literary scholar Udaya Kumar puts it in a recent podcast the pandemic has forced us to rethink our idea of ethics itself. See the podcast ‘Politics and Passions,’ 2021, here.

[6] Oeuvres Complètes 2.1.351, edited by André A. Devaux and Florence de Lussy (Paris: Gallimard, 1988-2006); quoted in and translated by Lissa McCullough’s The Religious Philosophy of Simone Weil: An Introduction (London: I.B. Tuaris, 2014).

[7] And published only in 1950 after her death. See Simone Weil: An Anthology, edited by Sian Miles (London: Penguin Books, 2005), 69-98. Hereafter cited as Weil, Anthology.

[8] Ibid., 70, 74.

[9] See Rozelle-Stone, A. Rebecca, and Benjamin P. Davis, ‘Simone Weil’, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2020 Edition), ed. Edward N. Zalta here.

[10] See McCullough’s The Religious Philosophy of Simone Weil, 1.

[11] Quoted from Arendt’s The Human Condition in Zaretsky, The Subversive Simone Weil, 3.

[12] Weil, Anthology, 180.

[13] Zaretsky, The Subversive Simone Weil, 22.

[14] Weil, ‘Factory Journal,’ in Simone Weil: Formative Writings, 1929-1941, ed. Dorothy Tuck McFarland and Wilhelmina Van Ness (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1987), 157, quoted in Zaretsky, The Subversive Simone Weil, 21.

[15] Ibid., 24.

[16] Peter Winch, Simone Weil: The Just Balance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 105-6, quoted in Zaretsky, The Subversive Simone Weil, 53.

[17] Weil, ‘Human Personality,’ Anthology, 89.

[18] Zaretsky, The Subversive Simone Weil, 7

[19] Ibid., 84.

[20] Simone Weil, Intimations of Christianity among the Ancient Greeks (London: Routledge, 1957), quoted in Zaretsky, The Subversive Simone Weil, 90.

[21] Simone Pétrement, La Vie de Simone Weil (Paris: Fayard, 1973), 487, translated and quoted in Zaretsky, The Subversive Simone Weil, 84.

[22] See Karl Marx, ‘Estrangement,’ in Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, trans. Martin Milligan (New York: Prometheus Books, 1988): 69-84.

[23] Simone Weil, ‘Uprootedness,’ The Need for Roots: Prelude to a Declaration of Duties towards Mankind, trans. Arthur Wills (London and New York: Routledge, 2002), 51, quoted in Zaretsky, The Subversive Simone Weil, 103

[24] Weil, The Need for Roots, 157, quoted in Zaretsky, The Subversive Simone Weil, 109.

[25] Simone Kotva, Effort and Grace: On the Spiritual Exercise of Philosophy (London: Bloomsbury, 2020).

[26] Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace, trans. Emma Crawford and Mario von der Ruhr (London and New York: Routledge, 2003), 70

[27] ‘The notion of history as a directed continuity is Christian. It seems to me that there are few more completely false ideas than this’; ‘Chistianity tried to discover a harmony in history. This is the germ in Hegel, and consequently Marx.’ Quoted in the David Cayley 5-part podcast-series ‘Enlightened by Love,’ 2014 here.

[28] Iris Murdoch, Existentialists and Mystics (New York: Penguin, 1996), 157, quoted in Zaretsky, The Subversive Simone Weil, 14.


The portrait of Weil is in the public domain. Photographer and year unknown.

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