Monday, January 13, 2020

"... mounted guard around her void ..."

June 13, 1940. It is the day before the German army arrives in Paris and the Weils -- father, mother and daughter, Simone -- have just left for Marseilles. It will take the Weils eighteen months to obtain the necessary visas to travel by freighter to New York (via Casablanca and Lisbon). In the meantime, Simone keeps busy -- reading and writing, when not picking grapes or tutoring the children of those whose floors she sleeps on.

It is in Marseilles that Simone bonds with Gustave Thibon, an autodidact Catholic philosopher and, according to du Plessix Gray, "the single most important chronicler of Simone's personalty."

Here is du Plessix (and Thibon) on that personality:

"Thibon notes, although Simone strives for detachment, 'she was not detached from her own detachment.' She did not seem to realize, in fact, the grave complications she caused in the lives of others when she undertook to fulfill her extraordinarily self-centred vocation for self-effacement. 'This soul who wanted to be flexible to every movement of the divine will,' he wrote, 'could not bear the course of events, or the kindness of her friends, altering by one iota the positioning of the stakes with which she had marked the path of self-immolation ... the way she mounted guard around her void still displayed a terrible preoccupation with herself.'" (172)

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