Nat's Reviews > War and the Iliad

War and the Iliad by Simone Weil
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's review
Aug 20, 2008

Read 2 times. Last read August 21, 2008.

This contains Weil's essay, a longer piece by Weil's contemporary (who led a weirdly parallel life) Rachel Bespaloff, and a critical essay on Bespaloff. The three essays are in order of their interestingness. Weil's piece could be used as a model of essay writing: it has a simple point to make and it doesn't really stray from it: force destroys everyone, even those who think they're in control of it. That is what the Iliad is really about.

Bespaloff's essay, in contrast, meanders. It begins with short meditations on the major characters in the poem, then shifts into comparisons of the Iliad and War and Peace and the Bible, which I found less edifying. Bespaloff (or her translator) is also inclined towards purplish turns of phrase, full of alliteration, like the following: "When the prodigious inspiration of prophetic poetry runs dry, the religion of the Bible degenerates into a febrile messianic mysticism" (92).

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