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Publisher's Summary

A patriot and a mystic, an unruly activist plagued by self-doubt, a pampered intellectual with a credo of manual labor, and an ascetic who craved sensuous beauty, Simone Weil died at the age of 34 after a long struggle with anorexia. But her tremendous intellectual legacy foresaw many of the 20th 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 listeners.

©2001 Francine du Plessix Gray; (P)2001 Books on Tape, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Du Plessix Gray does an exemplary job of bringing this complex, intelligent yet tortured woman to life." (Library Journal)
"A virtuosic achievement, possibly unique among popular treatments of Weil: a short, measured biography of a short but startlingly unmeasured and unmeasuring life." (Publishers Weekly)
"Gray's portrait is fascinating, and Donada Peters's reading is, as usual, perfection." (AudioFile)

What members say

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  • Overall

Like none other

The other Simone, one could say. A psychologically perceptive portrait of one woman's attempt to live a life of deep contemplation, principle, and action. The author deals well with the multilayered terrain of Weil's life, weaving history, philosophy, and psychology. The bio describes Weil's many shifts, from socialism to Catholicism, to her rejection of body and food, and her hatred of her Jewish roots, her friends, and her family. A truly astonishing life, Weil was one who fought every stricture placed upon her, including her own privilege, brilliance, and success. A woman of tremendous contradiction who lived at once intensely and narrowly, who the world was not ready for, whose mind could not find peace in ordinary things. She wins in the end, I think: as she believed, the accumulated actions of a life is truly one's opus. And indeed, her brief, intense life is, above all of her writings, the most authentic, and the most powerful, work that she left us.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Darrell
  • Moundridge, KS, United States
  • 03-19-06

Excellent Biography of Weil

This work is a very well written bio of a staggeringly unusual and complex person, Simone Weil. One cannot emphasize enough how strange and determined was this subject. And being such, what a difficult job it was for the author to convey the essence of Weil in these pages. But the author suceeded wonderfully in beautiful, literary prose. Also, the narrator excels in bringing the tale to life. I can't say enough about her, either. A wonderful job all round.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

The Essence of the Story

What did you like best about Simone Weil? What did you like least?

If a listener has, as I do, an interest in Simone Weil, he/she will find this biography disappointing. A great deal of emphasis is placed on pedestrian aspects of Weil's life, with a great deal of emphasis on her physical struggles and what they signify. Very little attention is given to her spiritual life or her theological writings. The implication seems to be that her mysticism and her spiritual understanding were a result of anorexia and a strong attachment to her mother. One would do better to read about her on Wikipedia and then attack her writings. The reader, however, is excellent.

What could Francine du Plessix Gray have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

See above

Which character – as performed by Donada Peters – was your favorite?

Not application, as this was a biography.

Was Simone Weil worth the listening time?

In some sense, yes, if just to get an idea of how this biographer sees her.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • connie
  • Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • 05-28-08

intimate bio, great social history

This was one of the first audiobooks I listened to; it convinced me that audioboooks could be more than a distraction during a commute and started a daily listening habit.

The author paints a detailed portrait of a complex woman in a fashion that could be thought of a "biography of a soul," psychological warts and all. It's also a portrait of the first half of the 20th century life in France, touching on class struggle, social change, the build up to war, and major religious and philosophical debates.

This is a woman whose story ought to be better known.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

lots of facts, not many ideas

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

The book was less about ideas than about the life of an eccentric person. People more interested in women's issues might have more insight to bring to these stories.

What could Francine du Plessix Gray have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

more ideas. The book also smacks of Eurocentric views of culture and history.

What three words best describe Donada Peters’s voice?

Elite and authoritative.