I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized An Unbaptised Saint

An Unbaptised Saint

Seamus Deane
L’Enracinement: Prélude à une déclaration des devoirs envers l’être humain, by Simone Weil, Éditions Gallimard, 1949, translated by Arthur Wills as The Need for Roots: Prelude to a Declaration of Duties Towards Mankind, Routledge & Kegan Paul 1952, Routledge Classics 2002 When Simone Weil (1909-43), who was agonised by the fall of France in 1940, stated that the day Hitler strode into Paris was a great day for Indo China, she spoke the kind of truth few people in Europe wanted to hear then (and not so very many since). And Indo China, as Vietnam, had to get rid of the Japanese, the French and the Americans before any great day dawned. Yet for Weil, the suffering France endured in 1940, suffering she shared, was not separable from the suffering it had inflicted during its colonial history. The aftershocks of World War II brought down the empires of Britain and France and exposed their companion racist ideologies and brutalities, enthusiastically endorsed by white Europeans in those empires and in the world at large. Part of Weil’s criticism of France in particular was that, through the Revolution of 1789, it had won a special role in world history, a redemptive and civilising vocation that it had betrayed by its greedy acquisition of colonies. She claimed too that both France and Britain were, along with Germany, following in the bloody footsteps of imperial Rome, the great Beast, which had felled the incomparable civilisation of Ancient Greece. The Greece of the Iliad, the Greek tragedies and of Plato, had been the spiritual source of a human community that had in many ways either anticipated or gone beyond Christianity and certainly far beyond the savageries of the Hebraic Old Testament. That, along with Imperial Rome, was a predecessor of Nazi Germany. Thus Weil, in the eight years before she died in 1943, which included her conversion to Catholic Christianity in 1938, (although she refused to be baptised), reconfigured the role of France in relation to its current defeat by Hitlerism as that of a political and spiritual community (the Free French, led by de Gaulle) being reborn in modernity’s darkest hour and, by symbolic extension, as a type of human community as such, rediscovering its roots in affliction, not as a means of recovering from it but, in recognising it, learning to acknowledge the void we live in and are compelled to fill in the absence…

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