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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Simone's Svengalis: A Petainist, a Missionary, and the Making of Simone Weil

Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

simone weil

Benjamin Braude
Boston College

Date: Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Time: 12:00-1:15 PM
Location: Boisi Center, 24 Quincy Road
RSVP Required (


Abstract: Two of the first books published in the name of the brilliant absolutist Simone Weil (1909-43), La Pesanteur el la Grâce (Gravity and Grace) (1947/8) and Attente au Dieu (Waiting on/for God) (1950), were tendentiously fashioned. Consequently the packaging that her Svengalis—the Petainist Gustave Thibon and the missionary Jean-Marie Perrin—imposed, so severely distorted her thought that the first is no longer considered by French specialists to be her own work and the second has no stable text. Nevertheless these two problematic books have defined Simone Weil. This talk reveals the origins and purposes of the books that Thibon and Perrin created. 


Benjamin Braude is an associate professor of history at Boston College. His research focuses on the construction of collective identities in the Middle East and Europe, as well as Jewish and Ottoman history. Specifically, he examines the formation of racial, religious and ethnic identity in Jewish, Christian and Muslim culture. He is currently at work on a projent entitled "Sex, Slavery, and Racism: The Secret History of the Sons of Noah," which examines the construction of attitudes towards identity from the ancient Near East to the present, and the role that the Biblical narrative of Noah’s sons played in the production of our modern racial imaginary. He is also the co-editor with Bernard Lewis of Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire: The Functioning of a Plural Society. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University.

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In the News

Responses to the terror attacks in France in early January raise concerns about nationalism and the place for minorities in Europe. Problems associated with individual and group rights and identity are at the heart of Simone Weil's writings; at a Boisi Center lunch on February 11, 2015, Boston College history professor Benjamin Braude will speak about the French intellectual's work, which is especially poignant in today's context.