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Reviews1 75 orders of society (fishermen, for example) to honor their dead comrades: even if the dedications are fictitious, they prove that it was a known fact that the written commemoration was valued by the lower classes, even ifan intermediary was involved. But none of these reservations detracts from the importance and overall persuasiveness of this magisterial and elegant study. University of Canterbury, New ZealandGraham Zanker Simone Weil: An Intellectual Biography, by Gabriella Fiori, translated by Joseph R. Berrigan; ? & 380 pp. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1989, $35.00. This book's subtitle, "An Intellectual Biography" (in Italian: "biography of a thought"), perfecdy indicates its content. It is indeed a biography; it does tell a life full of events, but in Simone Weil's case the events that form the web of life are always the expression ofthe development of her thought—events made necessary by the urge either to verify or put the thought to work. She was born in Paris in 1909 ofJewish intellectual parents, stricdy agnostic in matters of religion, but also deeply compassionate human beings, entirely committed to the ideals of equality and justice—as was the master who had a definite impact on her formation: the French philosopher Alain. Her background may explain the passionate awareness of the oppression of the poor with which she lived the experience of factory work— 1934—35—after three years of teaching in small cities where her social commitment shocked the parochial bourgeoisie. It may also explain the drive that made her reach Durruti 's forces in Spain during the revolution. Her participation in any form of "malheur"—her word for a kind of suffering (physical, moral, social) that impairs the humanity of the sufferer—nonetheless, soon acquires religious connotations: this is the new, unpredictable, element which shapes her life, as a work of art, in its unique form. AU through her experiences, to the last days of her life—in London, where she had reached the France Libre group of De Gaulle—she writes thousands of pages of essays and notebooks scrupulously examining historical situations, past and present; exploring the possibilities of structures of society founded on reason and truth, not on convention and superstition, to make life respond to basic human needs; investigating the real extension of those needs, both of body and soul, with the same scientific rigor which she applies to the study of the laws of nature and to her untiring med- 176Philosophy and Literature itation on religion. Thinking and writing must follow the same obligations imposed on manual labor: method and discipline. Any yielding to man's most natural enemy—laziness—takes away from truth. That there is no separation between moral and intellectual search, between thought and action, appears witii crystal clarity from Gabriella Fiori's simultaneous exposition of Simone's life and ideas. This book succeeds, with four hundred pages and limited quotations, in offering the reader a thorough spectrum of Simone Weil's all-encompassing inquiry, spanning a period of almost twenty years—from 1925, papers for Alain, to 1943, Ecrits de Londres. The task is one of extreme challenge because the biographer has to make discernible the balance of growth and consistency that characterizes Simone's work, as well as the richness of a thought that, in its Cartesian clarity, still defies the principle of contradiction and resolves opposites on a higher level. Gabriella Fiori has further developed her effort of interpretation in another book—Simone Weil: Une Femme absolue (1987)—but already in this biography she transmits the essential quality of Simone's voice. Her reading is unbiased; and while it stresses certain aspects—e.g., the sociopolitical aspect, or the relevance of Simone's feminine condition, over, for instance, the impact ofher perception ofbeauty— enough is still said and quoted about the latter, to point the reader in this direction in the mare magnum of Simone Weil's work. Even on a mere factual level Gabriella Fiori has much to offer, both in the text and in the rich supplement of notes, as a result of her indefatigable investigation of any and all recollections of surviving witnesses. The lively style of the Italian original has been masterfully kept...


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pp. 175-176
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