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One of the Guardian Unlimited Books' top 10 literary blogs: "A home-grown treasure ... smart, serious analysis"

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Thursday 01 December 2005

Metaxu and Simone Weil

Bud Parr (who blogs at Chekhov's Mistress) is the brains behind MetaxuCafé:

One of my greatest fears in naming this site MetaxuCafé is to trivialize the word metaxu. Simone Weil famously described metaxu as every separation being a link, which she illustrated with the idea of:

two prisoners whose cells adjoin communicate with each other by knocking on the wall. The wall is the thing which separates them but it is also their means of communication

Her discussion considers the physical world that is both the barrier and the “way through” to the spiritual world. Thus metaxu represents an intermediary (as Plato would have it), a bridge. Weblogs are analogous, in a far more material sense, because they are a way through to some level of greater understanding, a bridge from a discussion that I may have with you in my living room to a discussion I can have with all of you on my site.

Last weekend, Nicholas Lezard reviewed Simone Weil: An Anthology ("an inspiring collection of work from a neglected thinker"):

Simone Weil can be neglected in the more modish surveys of philosophy: she dares to bring religion into her thinking. This can make some people nervous or plain embarrassed; for others, it simply rules her out.

One gets the feeling that Weil would not have been that bothered. She was, as Andre Gide described her, "the saint of all outsiders"; conventional behaviour was beyond her. "The Great Beast" was her encompassing term for the kind of mindless, conformist society which goes unquestioned by the majority. Born into a cultured and prosperous Jewish Parisian family, she entered the Ecole Normale Superieure - possibly the brainiest place on earth - coming ahead of Simone de Beauvoir in the exams, and one of only five women in the school.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Reader Comments

Thursday 01 December 2005

Bud Parr says...

You may be interested to know that the Polish poet Adam Zagajewski discusses the concept of metaxu in his collection of essays, "A Defense of Ardor," which is really a great book. It was he that brought me to Weill.

Incidentally, the poet Anne Carson named her latest book, "Decreation," from a Weill concept.

So the poets have not ruled her out (and it's usually the poets that do dare to bring religion, and heresies, into their thought - but note that Bertrand Russell's "History of Western Philosophy" doesn't mention Weill even once.


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Omens, after Alexander Pushkin

I rode to meet you: dreams
like living beings swarmed around me
and the moon on my right side
followed me, burning.

I rode back: everything changed.
My soul in love was sad
and the moon on my left side
trailed me without hope.

To such endless impressions
we poets give ourselves absolutely,
making, in silence, omen of mere event,
until the world reflects the deepest needs of the soul.

-- Louise Gluck
Averno (Carcanet Press)

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