Simone Weil: The Year of Factory Work (1934-1935)
NOTES: During this period Simone Weil worked as a manual laborer in the Renault, Alsthom, and Forges de Basse-Indres factories in Paris. The experience was one of the gravest and most shattering in her short life (1909–1943). “That contact with affliction had killed my youth,” she wrote in her “Spiritual Autobiography” (Waiting for God, posthumously published in 1951).
Weil described and meditated on her factory experiences in a series of letters, journal entries, and notes posthumously collected in La Condition Ouvrière (1951). The title of my poem and some background information are gleaned from chapter eight of her friend Simone Pétrement’s biography, Simone Weil: A Life (1976). The logical propositions are quoted from Weil’s essay “The Mysticism of Work” (Gravity and Grace, 1952).
Edward Hirsch, “Simone Weil: The Year of Factory Work (1934-1935)” from Earthly Measures. Copyright © 1994 by Edward Hirsch. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
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Poet Edward Hirsch b. 1950
POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern