Simone Weil was born in Paris in 1909. Strikingly beautiful and intellectually precocious, she was reading the evening paper aloud to her family aged 5, quoting the seventeenth-century French dramatic poet, Jean Racine at 6 and, by her early teens, mastering classical Greek and several modern languages. She developed her acute social awareness ...Read MoreSimone Weil was born in Paris in 1909. Strikingly beautiful and intellectually precocious, she was reading the evening paper aloud to her family aged 5, quoting the seventeenth-century French dramatic poet, Jean Racine at 6 and, by her early teens, mastering classical Greek and several modern languages. She developed her acute social awareness during the First World War, refusing to eat sugar because the French soldiers at the front had none. In 1936 Weil joined an Anarchist unit near Zaragoza, Spain, to train for action in the Spanish Civil War, but after an accident she went to Portugal to recuperate. There she had the first of several mystical experiences which led to her adoption of a theology that came close to Roman Catholicism (despite her Jewish heritage) and which was to become the subject of much of her writing. After the German occupation of Paris during the Second World War, Weil moved to the south of France where she worked as a farm servant. She escaped with her parents to the United States in 1942 but then went to London to work with the French Resistance. To identify with her compatriots, Weil refused to eat more than the official ration in occupied France. Malnutrition and overwork led to a physical collapse and, during her hospitalization, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis. She died after a few months spent in a sanatorium, aged 34. Weil's writings, which were collected and published after her death, fill about 20 volumes. As Francine du Plessix Gray shows in this eloquent and engaging biography, Weil was a moral idealist committed to a vision of social justice. Her writings explore her own religious life and analyse the individual's relation with the state and God, the spiritual shortcomings of modern industrial society, and the horrors of totalitarianism. This book is an elegant introduction to the life of one of this century's most unusual women whose passionate beliefs profoundly shaped modern French and English social thought.Read Less
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