Thursday, May 21, 2009

Reflections: O'Connor on Weil - Part II

Less than a month later, Flannery O’Connor has received some of the writings of Simone Weil from “A.” and has begun to read them:

24 September 55 to “A.”:

I am reading the Weil books now, having finished the Letters to a Priest and I am very much obliged to you and will keep these books until you want them. I am struck by the coincidence (?) of title of Waiting for God, and Waiting for Godot—have you read that play, by an Irishman named Beckett? The life of this remarkable woman still intrigues me while much of what she writes, naturally, is ridiculous to me. Her life is almost a perfect blending of the Comic and the Terrible, which two things may be opposite sides of the same coin. In my own experience, everything funny I have written is more terrible than it is funny, or only funny because it is terrible, or only terrible because it is funny. Well Simone Weil’s life is the most comical life I have ever read about and the most truly tragic and terrible. If I were to live long enough and develop as an artist to the proper extent, I would like to write a comic novel about a woman—and what is more comic and terrible than the angular intellectual proud woman approaching God inch by inch with ground teeth?

It seems to me that her reaction to Weil’s writings is both strong and paradoxical (Comic/Terrible). The phrase “approaching God inch by inch with ground teeth” puts me in mind of a title by another powerful woman writer whom I admire—the poet, Anne Sexton—The Awful Rowing Toward God.

That said, the observations above hardly seems to amount to a ringing endorsement.