At Home with André and Simone Weil

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Publication Date
October 2010
Page Count
192 pages
Trim Size
5.5 x 8.25
ISBN
0-8101-2704-0

At Home with André and Simone Weil

Sylvie Weil, translated from the French by Benjamin Ivry

“It is quite incorrect to believe that the dead are gone forever and never return to speak to the living. They return to speak to the living all the time; indeed, it is their main activity.” Thus writes Sylvie Weil in this illuminating memoir, in which contemporary readers can hear the voices of her famed philosopher aunt Simone and mathematician father André.

Born into a freethinking Jewish family in France in 1909, Simone Weil was one of the twentieth century’s most original philosophers, influencing Albert Camus, T. S. Eliot, Simone de Beauvoir, Pope John XXIII, Czeslaw Milosz, and Susan Sontag. She fought for workers’ rights and, later, the Spanish Republican cause. Before her death at age thirty-four, Simone Weil turned increasingly to mysticism and religion, especially Roman Catholicism, exploring themes of sacrifice, asceticism, and the virtues of manual labor. She never converted, however, and Sylvie Weil writes from a Jewish perspective, emphasizing Simone’s Jewish heritage.

Using previously unpublished family correspondence and conversations, Sylvie Weil paints the most vivid, private portrait of her aunt in print. The book illuminates Simone’s relationship with others, especially with her brother, André. Loving and unsparing, affectionate and incisive, At Home with André and Simone Weil is an insightful memoir about a family of intellectual luminaries.

About the Author

SYLVIE WEIL earned degrees in classics and French literature at the Sorbonne. She was a professor of French literature and is the author of several award-winning works of fiction for adults and for young adults, including two novels published in the United States: My Guardian Angel and Elvina’s Mirror.

BENJAMIN IVRY has written biographies of Arthur Rimbaud, Maurice Ravel, and Francis Poulenc. He has translated such authors as André Gide, Jules Verne, Balthus, and Witold Gombrowicz.

Reviews

“With this book, Sylvie Weil has opened a window and allowed the fresh air of her unique perspective and her considerable talent to dust off and provide new insight into these two giants, and into the peculiar challenges of being the offspring of intellectual lions. With humor and style, Weil deftly leads us through the social intricacies of Jewish history, family history, mathematics, philosophy, war, and a peculiar sort of redemption. Leaning on Sylvie Weil’s capable arm, we are escorted through the back roads of a complex family landscape. This is a first-class tour.” —Karen Hesse, author of The Cats in Krasinski Square

"Sylvie Weil's memoir is simply one of the best books I've read in the past decade. At turns poignant, poetic, and deeply personal, Chez les Weil is a movingly honest exploration of her own identity and the exceptional influences that helped shape it, particularly her father, André, and his sister, Simone, her grandparents and ancestors, and the Holocaust." —Paul LeClerc, president, The New York Public Library
 
"A magnificent narrative which brings back to life the brother and sister, born three years apart yet very like twins, both superlatively gifted."—Le Monde
 

"The missing link in the story of André and Simone Weil is Sylvie Weil, daughter of the great mathematician, niece of the legendary philosopher. In her memoirs, which are much more than that, the 'saints' are humanized, while the 'merely' personal is transformed into something rich and strange. One enters Sylvie's world to find André and Simone, and discovers there a hidden treasure: Sylvie herself. No student of André or Simone Weil can afford not to enter this captivating universe." —Palle Yourgrau, author of A World Without Time: The Forgotten Legacy of Gödel and Einstein

"At Home with André and Simone Weil is an elegant and witty memoir-cum-reflection." —The Spectator