Simone Weil, further

Simone Weil, an anti-Semitic Jew? Turn off the controversies

by Robert Chenavier

Gallimard, 226 pages, €18.50

Simone Weil in the Kingdom of the Forgotten

by Anne Waeles, illustrations by Magali Dulain

Les Petits Platons, 64 p., €14

Interest in the philosopher and mystic Simone Weil (1909-1943) is undeniable and two books, in very different registers, offer new itineraries in her work. The work, signed by Robert Chenavier, philosopher who directed the edition of the last volumes of Complete Works of Simone Weil (Gallimard), is for those who are already familiar with the philosopher’s writings. He returns with courage, precision and temperance to the accusations of anti-Semitism which, with recurrence and often virulence, have been leveled against her.

We will not seek here to summarize the fine work carried out by Robert Chenavier, which sheds light on the complex report by Simone Weil, “non-Judaized Jew”, to his Jewish roots. He exposes the remarks that we can rightly reproach her for: the way in which she failed to take the measure of the specific misfortune which struck the Jews during the Second World War, the discriminatory measures she envisaged to force the Jews to assimilate after the conflict, or even the link it established between the Jewish people and the « uprooting » modern that it also condemns…

Invitation to humility

The file is therefore serious – even if it only concerns texts of reflection which were not intended for wide public dissemination – but Robert Chenavier sheds light on it by recontextualizing it and by highlighting the internal contradictions in the thought of Simone Weil, rather than by anathema. In this, his book is a remarkable reading exercise, as much as an invitation to humility, as it appears that every mind, however sharp and generous, has a share of blindness…

In a completely different register, Simone Weil in the Kingdom of the Forgotten offers an original introduction to the spirit of Simone Weil’s thought, in the form of a tale for (big) children. The little Amal, guided by the big Simone, strives to reconcile the « tribe of the Hands » and the « tribe of the Heads » who live apart and in hostility. Anne Waeles, professor of philosophy, distils throughout this imaginary story the major themes of Simone Weil’s thought: the denunciation of the enslavement of workers, the affirmation of the needs of the soul, the refusal of war, the importance of attention… A lovely tale that reminds us that we only enter « Kingdom of the Attentive »that if we have “two hands, one head, one heart”.


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