In his preface, T.S. Eliot recommends a slow and careful reading of Miss Weil lest we become distracted ''by considering how far, and at what points, we agree or disagree... what matters is to make contact with a great soul.'' He goes on to say that Simone Weil might very well have become a saint considering the great obstacles she had to overcome and the great capacity she seemed to have had for overcoming them. Asked by the Free French in London to write a report on the possibility of regeneration in France after World War II, Weil wrote this book -- considered by many to be her most well-balanced and intellectually persuasive -- calling on her fellow countrymen to begin recovering their spiritual roots and suggesting how this might be done. At the core of her thought is the centrality of physical labor in establishing and developing spiritual solvency. Both social stability and a well-ordered life depend not only on the body's exertion but also on a people ''accustomed to love truth.'' Eliot categorizes Weil's work as a ''prolegomena to politics which politicians seldom read,'' exhorting the young to study it ''before their leisure has been lost and their capacity for thought destroyed.'' We concur (though not confining her readership to the young alone) and offer Weil herself to close: ''To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.'' 298 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
Hailed by Andre Gide as the patron saint of all outsiders, Simone Weil's short life was ample testimony to her beliefs. In 1942 she fled France along with her family, going firstly to America. She then moved back to London in order to work with de Gaulle. Published posthumously The Need for Roots was a direct result of this collaboration. Its purpose was to help rebuild France after the war. In this, her most famous book, Weil reflects on the importance of religious and political social structures in the life of the individual. She wrote that one of the basic obligations we have as human beings is to not let another suffer from hunger. Equally as important, however, is our duty towards our community: we may have declared various human rights, but we have overlooked the obligations and this has left us self-righteous and rootless. She could easily have been issuing a direct warning to us today, the citizens of Century 21.