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is one of her most celebrated works—an inspired analysis of Homer’s epic that presents a nightmare vision of combat as a machine in which all humanity is lost.First published on the eve of war in 1939, the essay has often been read as a pacifist manifesto.
I : War & the Iliad Simone Weil Surprisingly short, such a little essay.
The introduction points to Weil's creative misreading of the Iliad, which the editor holds owed more to Goya's the Horrors of war series than to any edition of Homer.
II : on the Iliad Rachel Bespaloff This was a much wider ranging essay, according to the introduction Bespaloff had read the Iliad and had started writing some notes when she was shown Weil's essay and indeed Bespaloff picks up on her idea of 'force' though she specifically says that the Iliad is more than only a poem of force - contradicting Weil's dark vision, but rather like Weil she finds inspiration in it and draws links- in very vague terms - between the Hebrew Bible and ancient Greek writings, I felt here that there was a certain feeling of inferiority on her part and an assertion of cultural equality and worth between the Greek heritage - generally acknowledged to be great and world significance and Jewish tradition - and Bespaloff was writing during WWII after a period in which Judaism had been coming under criticism from various quarters.
She linked the Iliad to Anna Karenina and Moscow to Troy, reading I remember this made some kind of sense but twenty or so hours after reading it seems an entirely crazy parallel that makes little sense - in this scheme Tolstoy is a new Homer, both in her view transcending mere literature and creating some kind of new cultural paradigm and new cultural values.
III : The Style of the Mythical Age Hermann Brock Brock's tiny twenty page piece is in direct response to Bespaloff.
I liked it best of the three, although it too was joyfully insane in it's own way.An image suffices them, a contrast that remains forever present in our memories.At last there is Hermann Broch’s “The Style of the Mythical Age.” Broch intimidates me, certainly more than the other Central European philosophical fabulists – Kafka, Gombrowicz – I intend to tackle in the coming year, and who seem clever clowns next to Broch’s agon, what Hannah Arendt in Men in Dark Times called his “wearisome and unwearied search for an absolute,” a search whose synthetic seriousness made him scorn the “merely literary,” rue “the fate of being a poet in spite of oneself,” and demand that contemporary literature “pass through all the hells of l’art pour l’art” before it could aspire to the truly “ethical.” I don’t think I’m terminally belletristic, incorrigibly arrested in the hells of l’art pour l’art, or trivially enamored of bien ecrit, but Bespaloff’s and Broch’s philosophical vocabulary and effortless abstraction daunt me.Rachel Bespaloff was a French contemporary of Weil’s whose work similarly explored the complex relations between literature, religion, and philosophy.She composed her own distinctive discussion of the in the midst of World War II—calling it “her method of facing the war”—and, as Christopher Benfey argues in his introduction, the essay was very probably written in response to Weil.I may add what I no doubt have said often enough, that it seems to me that every society rests on the death of men." -I : introduction I found this collection on the shelves of the library, technically I don't think it should have been there at all - it seemed to belong to the collection of another library, when I attempted to borrow it using one of the self-service machines (which are not librarian shaped), the machine rebuffed me and directed me to one of it's human co-workers, the non- robotic woman - despite (apparently) lacking the capacious spring loaded book holding shelf of her electronic counter part -I : introduction I found this collection on the shelves of the library, technically I don't think it should have been there at all - it seemed to belong to the collection of another library, when I attempted to borrow it using one of the self-service machines (which are not librarian shaped), the machine rebuffed me and directed me to one of it's human co-workers, the non- robotic woman - despite (apparently) lacking the capacious spring loaded book holding shelf of her electronic counter part or inbuilt light pen, was able to explain that some varlet had already reserved the book and that person had the right (and hopefully the legal duty) to read it before me, however in the lawful exercise of her librarian functionality she then reserved it for me, I wasn't so certain that I wanted to read it that much, but occasionally even I can recognise the hammer blows of FATE, some god or goddess, hostile or even friendly thrusts a volume upon you that in the unending war of classics versus moderns one is doomed to read...0: general bit I assume (view spoiler) that if I was to tell you that there was a collection of essays written during the second World War about the Iliad, that you'd form a certain impression of what those essays would be about, however I'm moderately certain that what one imagines - unless you already know of the authors would not give you a good idea of what these essays actually contain - they don't point to the reality of living through a war and reading a poem about war at the same time.For Weil -her singular saintly self-destructive Catholicism (view spoiler) who finds in the relentless violence of the Iliad - pacifism, Bespaloff finds a unity of spirit between the ancient Hebrews and their nearish neighbours, the ancient Greeks, while Brock finds in the Iliad an escape from Max Weber's steel cage of the disenchanted existence of modernity.Perhaps that just goes to show that a really creative misreading of a book is a perfect mirror for the essayists well established pre-occupations and hobby-horses.Perhaps you find the notion inspiring, or merely puzzling, I find it burdened with heavy assumptions about Homer - a creature about whom we know nothing.In passing I noticed that for her the Occident was masculine and the Orient feminine, and although she was, I believe, a woman herself, she doesn't seem to intend this in a complimentary way.