Simone Weil was born in Paris just over a century ago, on February 3, 1909, and though she always remained fiercely loyal to France—and was French to her fingertips—the case could be made that her true homeland lay elsewhere, deep in the hazier and far more fractious republic of Contradiction. There she was, however perilously, chez elle. Weil displayed alarming aplomb on the horns of dilemmas; often she teetered on several simultaneously. She went after the paradoxical, the contradictory, the oppositional, with the rapt single-mindedness of a collector and the grim fervor of a truffle-hound. She exulted in polarities. Though many of Weil’s statements have an aphoristic cast or masquerade as bons mots, they are anything but witty in the usual bantering sense. Weil is an irritating thinker; her words impart an acrid aftertaste; they leave scratchy nettles behind. She meant to provoke, to...

 
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