Friday, August 25, 2023

Simone Weil

Eighty years ago yesterday, one of the 20th century’s most unusual and unsettling thinkers died at a sanatorium in Ashford, England. The patient had been diagnosed with tuberculosis, but her immediate cause of death was cardiac arrest. Yet the coroner’s report concluded that the patient herself was responsible for her death: “The deceased did kill and slay herself by refusing to eat whilst the balance of her mind was disturbed.”

If only it were so simple.

As with every other facet to her short life, the meaning of Simone Weil’s death is complicated. And as with everything else she did—the product of France’s elite schools who went to work in a series of factories, the pacifist who went to war against Franco in Spain, and the daughter of Jewish parents who became a Christian mystic—how Weil died is at one with her life. Eighty years later, it may be that how she lived and how she died are lessons for a world no less a mess now than it was in Weil’s time.

...... read on ....

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