Dates in Simone Weil's brief life (1909-1943)

February 5, 1909

Simone Weil was born in Paris. There is an amusing account of her childhood in chapter 1 of Plessix Gray's irreverent biography

She and her elder brother André rival in brilliance and are raised by their parents as child prodigies. (André became a famous mathematician.)


Weil at 13





Studies with the philosopher Alain (Emile Chartier) at the Lycée Henri IV. At first, Alain reportedly nicknames her "the Martian".
The beginning of lengthy, painful migraines that will plague her for the rest of her life

Weil receives her agrégation (similar to doctorate) in philosophy from the Ecole Normale with a thesis entitled Science & Perception in Descartes. She graduates first in her class, her namesake Simone de Beauvoir is second.

Her tireless political and trade union efforts earn Weil the cruel nickname of "the Red Virgin".

December 31, 1931

The Weils take in Trostky who is travelling near Barbizon to meet with foreign militants. Simone has a discussion with Trotsky who gets upset. She tells him : "You are the idealistic one. You are the one calling a servant class the dominant class" in the URSS (60)

August-September 1935

In a poor Portuguese village watching alone the procession of fishermen wives and boats, she will write much later :

"Là j’ai eu soudain la certitude que le christianisme est par excellence la religion des esclaves, que des esclaves ne peuvent pas ne pas y adhérer, et moi parmi des autres. " (65)

(There I suddenly had the certitude that christianity is the religion of slaves par excellence, that slaves cannot not adhere to it, and I too along with the others).

"In 1937 I had two marvelous days at Assisi. There, alone in the little twelfth century Romanesque chapel of Santa Maria degli Angeli, an incomparable marvel of purity where Saint Francis often used to pray, something stronger than I was compelled me for the first time in my life to go down on my knees."

She reads the entire Ancient Testament for the first time

In April she stays at the abbey of Solesmes to follow the Easter week services. She hears Gregorian chants and discovers the English metaphysical poets, including George Herbert (74)

November 1938
While reciting Herbert's poem Love she feels Christ's presence. She writes later "Christ himself came down and took me." (771)
March 1939
At the age of 30, she abandons her pacificism, "mon erreur criminelle" (my criminal error) which she attributes to years of physical pain — violent headaches

Prays for the first time, by reciting the Our Father in original Greek.

Despite repeatedly feeling the presence of Christ and a yearning for communion she decides not to be baptized because she sees the need for a profound reform of the Roman Catholic church

Weil starts writing the Cahiers which Gustave Thibon will edit to create La Pésanteur et la Grace (Gravity and Grace)

April 1942

In Marseille, she and her family prepare a trip to New York.

In a few weeks she writes the essays and articles which will be assembled in Attente de Dieu (Waiting for God) and Pensées sans ordre sur l’amour de Dieu (Thoughts without order on the love of God) which she transmits to the blind Father Perrin who will edit Attente de Dieu.

July 1942

In New York, the Weils live in an apartment at 594 Riverside Drive. Simone meets Jacques Maritain who is teaching at the New School.

November 1942
Simone lands in Liverpool. She goes to London and writes texts for the Free French which will become L'Enracinement (The Need for Roots)

April 1943

Simone is admited to Middlesex Hospital suffering from malnutrition, exhaustion and tuberculosis
May 1943
She rereads the Baghavad Gita in Sanskrit simoneweillaissezpasser
July 1943
She quits her job with the Free French, and has violent arguments with Maurice Schumann
August 1943
She is transferred to the Ashford Sanatorium in Kent county
August 24, 1943
After a life of self-imposed privation, Simone Weil dies from heart failure at the age of 34
Simone Weil is buried in Ashford’s New Cemetery, in the section reserved for Catholics.
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