Synopses & Reviews
Francine du Plessix Gray's biography of the Marquis de Sade, At Home with the Marquis de Sade, was hailed by The New York Times Book Review as a "boldly imaginative retelling" of his life and garnered the critically acclaimed author a Pulitzer Prize nomination. In Simone Weil, du Plessix Gray vividly evokes the life of an equally complex and intriguing figure. A patriot and a mystic, an unruly activist plagued by self-doubt, a pampered intellectual with a credo of manual labor, an ascetic who craved sensuous beauty, Simone Weil died at the age of thirty-four prematurely after a long struggle with anorexia. But her tremendous intellectual legacy foresaw many of the twentieth century's great changes and continues to influence philosophy today. Simone Weil traces this seminal thinker's transformation from privileged Parisian student to union organizer, activist, and philosopher as well as the complex evolution of her ideas on Christianity, politics, and sexuality. In this thoughtful and compelling biography, du Plessix Gray illuminates an enigmatic figure and early feminist whose passion and pathos will fascinate a wide audience of readers.
"Gray is a wise and compassionate Virgil to the bewildered reader who chances upon this transfixing, even seductive inferno (or purgatory, or heaven the boundaries blur) of largely self-imposed pain. She clarifies the gradual transition in Weil's life from left-wing political activism to world-renouncing spirituality, and critiques what she sees as "priggish" and "perverse" tendencies in Weil's moral idealisms, from her Francophile fervors to her gnostic anti-Judaism." Publishers Weekly
"Half in awe, half appalled, and altogether embroiled, du Plessix Gray explicates Weil's staggering brilliance, integrity, and profound influence, as well as such disturbing biases as her wild condemnation of Judaism. Weil believed that suffering was the path to spiritual growth, and suffer she did, becoming a martyr to her principles and a polestar for all concerned with rights and obligations, affliction and grace." Donna Seaman, Booklist
"A superbly nuanced portrait of a tortured character." Kirkus Reviews
Francine du Plessix Gray is the author of Rage and Fire, Lovers and Tyrants, Soviet Women, and the Pulitzer Prize finalist At Home with the Marquis de Sade.
"Weil's ablest biographers, including her close friend Simone Pétrement and the psychiatrist Robert Coles, whose 1987 portrait was reissued in March, often seem cowed by her virtuousness, too tentative in exploring the irrational elements of her character. Francine du Plessix Gray, approaching Weil afresh in the Penguin Lives Series, errs in the opposite direction, needling her subject with great relish and sometimes expertly hitting the mark." Elizabeth Judd, Atlantic Online
(read Atlantic Online's entire review
This stirring portrait of Simone Weil (1909-1943), one of the most brilliant and profoundly passionate women of our time, follows the life of this enigmatic French philosopher from her early days as a non-conformist, left-wing student to her anarchist fight against Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Photos.