Devotion ~ Tidbit #5 Simone Weil

Waiting for the Barbarians by ‎J.M. Coetzee

Moderators: Liz, fireflydances

User avatar
SnoopyDances
Posts: 50983
Joined: Sun Feb 21, 2010 3:12 pm
Location: Tashmore Lake
Status: Offline

Devotion ~ Tidbit #5 Simone Weil

Unread post by SnoopyDances » Wed Oct 03, 2018 2:49 am

As we continue walking in Patti's footsteps of inspiration, we now turn to the literary figures that help shape her story Devotion; Simone Weil, Patrick Modiano, and Albert Camus. Who are these writers and what about them connects with Patti?

Simone Weil

"Nonetheless I settle in, drink mineral water, and let myself be drawn into the book of a life, a shard of Simone Weil. The hastily chosen book was to prove itself more than serviceable and the subject an admirable model for a multitude of mindsets.
Brilliant and privileged, she coursed through the great halls of higher learning, forfeiting all to embark on a difficult path of revolution, revelation, public service, and sacrifice."
Patti Smith

Simone Weil was born Feb. 3, 1909, in Paris and died Aug. 24, 1943, in Ashford, Kent, England at age 34. Her writings were collected and published after her death.

Image
Weil with her father
Wikipedia


Her father, Bernard, was a physician, making the family upper middle class. Her mother, Selma, focused her attention on her children and their privileged education. Simone's brother, André, became a world-renowned mathematician and she graduated with honors to become a philosophy teacher (a rarity for women in that era). Although the family was of Jewish heritage, it didn't define their lives until it was necessary to flee Paris in 1940, one day prior to German occupation.

In her short life, Simone was an intellectual and socially conscientious marvel. At the age of five, she refused to eat sugar because the soldiers on the front lines of World War I didn't have any. By the age of six, she was quoting the poet Jean Racine. Yet, at times, she felt overshadowed by her brother's success.

Image
Attente de Dieu (1950; Waiting for God)

In a letter she wrote, "…but what did grieve me was the idea of being excluded from that transcendent kingdom to which only the truly great have access and wherein truth abides." Under the name of truth, she adds, "I also included beauty, virtue, and every kind of goodness, so that for me it was a question of the relationship between grace and desire. The conviction that had come to me was that when one hungers for bread one does not receive stones."

Image
La Pesanteur et la grâce (1947; Gravity and Grace)

Always the intellectual, influenced by modern thinkers, philology, science, and the world around her, she would often participate in social activism putting her at odds with school administrators.

Image
Simone Weil, 1942; an aircraft factory, 1940.(Collage Abigail Miller/Tablet Magazine; photos: American Weil Society and San Diego Air and Space Museum

In 1934, she left her prestigious teaching position to take work in various factories. She wanted to study first hand the psychological effects of heavy industrial labor. Working on an assembly line taught her that in such an environment, humans quickly turn into machines and realized how it made them feel less important, less human.

Image
Oppression et Liberté (1955; Oppression and Liberty)

In 1936, she joined an anarchist unit near Zaragoza, Spain, training for the Spanish Civil War. She never fought in that war due to a tragic accident where she was badly burned.

During the German occupation, she moved to Vichy and worked as a farm servant. By 1942, she and her parents escaped to the United States, but she quickly left for London to help the French Resistance.

Image
L’Enracinement (1949; The Need for Roots)

Upon arriving in London, she was hospitalized and diagnosed with tuberculosis. Again, to identify with the French soldiers, she refused to eat more than the official ration of occupied France and died a few months later. The coroner ruled the cause of death as "suicide".

Timeline
► Show Spoiler
Her writings comprise about 20 volumes including Gravity and Grace, a collection of religious essays, The Need for Roots, an essay on the obligations of the individual and the state, Waiting for God, a spiritual autobiography, Oppression and Liberty, a collection of political and philosophical essays on war, factory work, and language.

Weil always seemed to be searching for something; answers, spiritual guidance, political understanding, equality for the working man. Something. Over time, she lost faith in political ideologies and was drawn toward Christianity.

These are the facts surrounding her life, but it is difficult to grasp the spirit that lived within her. Her enthusiasm and passion for social causes are remarkable and her observations of the human spirit under duress still ring true today.

It is astounding what she accomplished in 34 years. And it is no wonder why Patti would be drawn to her as in influence.

"I had drawn certain aspects of Simone's countenance for Eugenia, my young heroine: her intellectual flexibility, strange gait, and innocent arrogance. Yet other aspects I reversed. Simone shuddered at the touch of another, while Eugenia blatantly craved it."
Patti Smith

To learn more about Simone, her philosophies, and her legacy, I recommend watching the documentary and checking out the websites listed in the resources.

An Encounter with Simone Weil (Documentary)
(WARNING: Contains graphic images of violence)


[bbvideo=560,315]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QX0mAk3zI7Q[/bbvideo]

Ashford, Kent, England
Bybrook Cemetery


"My duties to Gallimard accomplished, I board the Eurostar to London…At St. Pancras International I took yet another train to Ashford, the last length of my journey, to find Simone Weil's grave. "
Patti Smith

Image

Located near the white cliffs of Dover, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Leeds Castle, Ashford is a rail hub that specializes in manufacturing.

Image

It has been around since the 13th century and became a stock market for the nearby farms.

Image
Ashford: Willesborough Windmill


Ashford is home to luscious gardens, historic houses, steam railways, vineyards, windmills, music festivals, and a huge designer outlet mall with more than 80 shops.

Image
Ashford

In 1983, Ashford named Simone Weil Avenue in her honor. During the official naming, her hat was presented to the Ashford Borough Council by Monsieur Eugene Fleure, a member of the Association for the Study of the Thoughts of Simone Weil. The hat is now on permanent display at the Civic Centre in Tannery Lane.

Patti's visit is brief and with a purpose. She wants to visit Simone and leave her gifts. Simone is buried in an understated grave located in Bybrook Cemetery.

Image
Simone Weil Gravesite

Patti mentions stumbling in the dark and rain to find Simone's grave. Perhaps this map would have helped.

Image
Bybrook Cemetery map

This concludes the Road Trip portion of the tidbits as Patti heads back to New York to finish her story. Fireflydances will introduce you to Patrick Modiano and Albert Camus. I hope you enjoyed our little trip through Europe!

Au revoir! :frenchie:

Resources:

American Weil Society


ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA
Simone Weil


Ashford, Kent


PBS.org
The Question of God series


The New York Review of Books
Simone Weil By Susan Sontag


Visit Ashford and Tenterden


BBC Radio 4
In Our Time-Simone Weil (audio only)


Bybrook Cemetery

User avatar
nebraska
Posts: 29420
Joined: Tue Jul 06, 2004 8:15 pm
Location: near Omaha
Status: Offline

Devotion ~ Tidbit #5 Simone Weil

Unread post by nebraska » Sat Oct 06, 2018 11:48 am

To learn more about Simone, her philosophies, and her legacy, I recommend watching the documentary and checking out the websites listed in the resources.

An Encounter with Simone Weil (Documentary)
(WARNING: Contains graphic images of violence)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QX0mAk3zI7Q
I finally finished watching this movie. The film itself is extremely well done. It has the same sort of haunting narration voice, with black and white images that take your breath away, as the Ristuules trailer. The way Simone's story is told creates a living historical experience and keeps it from being a dry linear biography, just a list of facts without feeling. It is the kind of thing that I will be thinking about for a while. Patti seems to be a bit of a romantic and a bit of a revolutionary, so I can understand why Simone draws her in.

After watching the film I have conflicting thoughts about Simone Weil. I haven't decided if she was a brilliant humanitarian and philosopher or if she was a self-indulgent lunatic. Maybe neither, maybe a bit of both. Many of her actions are poignant and touching, demonstrating deep thought, but they accomplished nothing worthwhile in the end.

User avatar
SnoopyDances
Posts: 50983
Joined: Sun Feb 21, 2010 3:12 pm
Location: Tashmore Lake
Status: Offline

Devotion ~ Tidbit #5 Simone Weil

Unread post by SnoopyDances » Sat Oct 06, 2018 8:01 pm

nebraska wrote:
To learn more about Simone, her philosophies, and her legacy, I recommend watching the documentary and checking out the websites listed in the resources.

An Encounter with Simone Weil (Documentary)
(WARNING: Contains graphic images of violence)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QX0mAk3zI7Q
I finally finished watching this movie. The film itself is extremely well done. It has the same sort of haunting narration voice, with black and white images that take your breath away, as the Ristuules trailer. The way Simone's story is told creates a living historical experience and keeps it from being a dry linear biography, just a list of facts without feeling. It is the kind of thing that I will be thinking about for a while. Patti seems to be a bit of a romantic and a bit of a revolutionary, so I can understand why Simone draws her in.

After watching the film I have conflicting thoughts about Simone Weil. I haven't decided if she was a brilliant humanitarian and philosopher or if she was a self-indulgent lunatic. Maybe neither, maybe a bit of both. Many of her actions are poignant and touching, demonstrating deep thought, but they accomplished nothing worthwhile in the end.
I liked the way the documentary tried to encapsulate Weil's spirit and understand this woman. The word "genius" is used quite often with cultural and artistic people, but with varied results. It seemed sweet and innocent for a child to give up sugar, but when, as an adult, you give up food/medicine that could treat your illness, I think it borders on bizarre.

Genius and lunatic often seem to go hand in hand. What is genius to some seems crazy to others. :spin: