Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Readings: Simone Weil - Part II

What follows is the second installment of Paul West's biographical sketch of Simone Weil from Portable People:

Such an odd combination of masochism and affabulation (fantasticating a mystical experience) is bound to provoke even in the most open minded a few harsh misgivings about frustrated spinsters, algolagnia, and hatred of the flesh. And it is possible to read Simone Weil’s account of Christ in person (“Sometimes we stretched out on the floor of the mansarde and the softness of the sun came down upon me”) in almost the same way as we would one of Moravia’s studies in adolescent eroticism. Irreverent as it may be to say it, she had a crush on Jesus. Yet, of course, as Gustave Thibon and others noted, she winced away from physical embrace—at least until the day she forced herself to declare, with rather dotty braggadocio, “I like being kissed by men with moustaches. It stings!” Remove the sting and the kiss is nothing for Simone Weil. After she had told friends about actually being kissed by a coal trimmer in Barcelona, she burst into tears when one of them asked if the man was drunk. This tireless intelligence, who beat Simone de Beauvoir into second place in the Ecole Normale entrance examination, belonged to her own version of the human condition. Frustrated, ill at ease as a woman and disconsolate at being human, she was reassured only by extra suffering and convinced only by what she thought God had told her. It is no wonder she became a kind of amateur saint and a successful suicide.

It is noted that West goes out of his way to present her as grotesque here. Still, he finds her fascinating enough to contemplate. In my experience, most people are either too conventional, or too orthodox, to deal with thinking about Simone Weil at all.