Rooting for a New Patriotism

Simone Weil Is More Relevant Than Ever, 70 Years On

Simone Weil in 1921 ARCHIVIO GBB Contrasto / Redux

In 1949, France’s most prestigious publishing house, Gallimard, added a new book to a series called “Espoir.” At a time when espoir, or “hope,” in France was rationed as severely as bread, the name was an optimistic one. Barely risen from the ruins of a world war, France was now riven by the Cold War. The book’s preface, written by the series editor, was no more reassuring. It warned that the book, based on an unfinished manuscript, was austere, even pitiless, in its analysis of the desperate condition confronting Europe. Yet “to conceive of Europe’s rebirth,” it announced, would be impossible if we ignored the author’s message.

The editor happened to be the world-renowned voice of the French resistance and French existentialism, Albert Camus, and the book he introduced was titled L’Enracinement, or The Need for Roots. He never met its author, who died in 1943 in

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