Review: Francine du Plessix Gray’s “Simone Weil”

by writereaderly

francine du plessix gray simone weilIt was nice symmetry to read this in the same week I listened to an interview with FPG on my favourite book show. Simone Weil was an early 20th century intellectual, philosopher and egotistical martyr who died at the age of 34 after punishing herself with anorexia, sleeping on the floor for years, and working challenging factory jobs that were particularly unsuited to her temperament — all in a bid to experience the true painful lot of the poor. She sounds like a right egotistical sufferance queen, clearly incredibly bright and incredibly unbalanced. She was also apparently a remarkable — if highly erratic — thinker, and has garnered reasonable intellectual cachet since her life of suicide. As a biography, it’s very readable and strikes a fine balance between detail and cultural overview. I certainly wouldn’t have read it were the biographer not famous. (But I also think I oughtn’t read more biographies, unless the biography is warranted on grounds that are *not* ego / craziness / messy charisma. I suspect that leaves few options in the genre.)

Where it came from: Library sell-on shelf
Time and manner of reading:
Up-and-down train reads
Where it went: Opshop
Best line of the book: “All of us must escape … the contagion of folly and collective frenzy by reaffirming on our own account, beyond the control of the social idol, the original pact between the individual mind and the universe.” pp80-81
Who I’d recommend it to:
People who need reminding how hard-core they’re actually not – and actually don’t want to be
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper; Belonging by bell hooks