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Weil Facts: 1, 2

Simone Weil left for Spain in 1937 to fight on the anarchist side of the Spanish Civil War. I can't believe that she marched to the front lines. Let's just say that, armed with a rifle, she walked with her unit towards the front lines. She never shot anyone, nor, according to her comrades, did she hit anything at target practice. Fortunately, she stepped into a pot of boiling oil. (Since the meal was being prepared near the enemy, the cooking pot was hidden in a hole.) Weil was removed from the battlefield before her unit was massacred. About a year later Weil had the first of the mystical experiences she describes so simply and clearly in the excerpts from her "Spiritual Autobiography" (see "spirit").

In 1942 Simone Weil reluctantly fled from France to America with her parents to escape the fate of so many Jews in Hitler's Europe. Although she had a great love of life, nature, the theater, and of her family and friends Simone Weil had an almost pathological need to share the human suffering around her. She confessed in a letter, "every time I think of the crucifixion of Christ I commit the sin of envy." She left for America only after getting promises that she could then travel to England to join the Free French organizing under De Gaulle. In England, even after she contracted tuberculosis, she continued to refuse to eat more than the rations officially allowed those still living in Nazi occupied France. In the last year of her life, in addition to her war duties she wrote a number of major essays. As she lay dying she wrote "The Need for Roots" in which she noted that we have declared the rights of man but overlooked the obligations and this has left us self-righteous and rootless. The book outlined what Weil believed would be the necessary first steps for a rebirth of freedom and justice in Europe.

NEXT section: Weil's inner life

— There are several excellent biographies of Simone Weil. I hope someone will provide a complete bibliography link or a list to include here. Of those I've read, I recommend:

UTOPIAN PESSIMIST - The Life and Thought of Simone Weil by David McClellan, Poseidon Press: NY, 1990

Weil in anarchist military uniform, in the Spanish Civil War, 1936

Simone Weil - an Anthology which is available in paperback and is a great place to start reading Weil if you are as interested in her political thought as her spiritual life. Waiting For God, is the best place to start if your primary interest is her Christianity.

Weil, Simone, SIMONE WEIL, AN ANTHOLOGY, edited and Introduced by Sîan Miles, Virago Press, London, 1986

WAITING FOR GOD by Simone Weil - Harper & Row, New York, 1951, translated by Emma Craufurd (title is also translated as "Waiting ON God")

© Brian Thomas, 2009
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