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Simone Weil's the Iliad or the Poem of Force [Paperback]

Simone Weil , James P. Holoka

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Product details

  • Paperback: 140 pages
  • Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing Inc; 3rd revised critical ed edition (Mar 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0820463612
  • ISBN-13: 978-0820463612
  • Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 15 x 1 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 331,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


This is the first bilingual edition of Weil's 1939, 25-page war essay, the first based on the text of Weil's Oeuvres compl tes and the first to provide citations for passages quoted from the Illiad . Weil defines force as "that which makes a thing of whoever submits to it. Exercised to the extreme, it makes the human being a thing quite literally,

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Far and Away the Best Translation/Edition of this Seminal Work 24 Oct 2007
By cvairag - Published on Amazon.com
Simone Weil was one of the transcendent geniuses of our time. The archetypal intellectual/activist - the clarity of her insight and the depth and weight of her oeuvre is remarkable, incredible for anyone - no less someone in their twenties and early thirties. A brilliant comet of a being, coursing luminously through the profanity and darkness of the mid- twentieth century to an early end, mercilessly, intensely engaged in the vortex of social change, yet seen by her contemporaries only from a distance - she died at a mere 34!
Weil mastered Ancient Greek in her teens and used to correspond with her brother in Attic script. She even contemplated translating the Iliad, which she considered "the purest and lovliest mirror" of the human condition. But the onslaught of Hitler's armies turned her efforts toward a more focused reflection of the critical moment in which she lived and how its essence was distilled in Homer's storied epic. Her writings on Greek thought, eloquent and profound, are collected in a svelte volume, 'Intimations of Christianity Among the Ancient Greeks' Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1957. Wonderful as it is to have these works in English in one volume - the product of her teaching career (she taught Greek literature and ideals at High School and undergraduate levels)- The Holoka is the best translation of her noted masterpiece, 'The Iliad, the Poem of Force'. Not only does the Holoka translation capture the honed edge of her prose (which other, more dolled up versions fail to do), but exhibits admirable fidelity throughout. Holoka also provides Weil's original French text, as well as the Greek texts of all citations (Holoka is a Classsics scholar), a solid introduction, commentary, and thorough references.

Here are some essential exerpts of the translation:

'The true hero, the true subject matter, the center of the Iliad is force. The force that men wield, the force that subdues men, in the face of which human flesh shrinks back' (p. 45).

'From the power to change a human being into a thing by making him die there comes another power, in its way more momentous, that of making a still living human being into a thing. He is living, he has a soul; he is nonetheless a thing' (p. 46).

'As pitilessly as force annihilates, equally without pity it intoxicates those who possess or believe they possess it. In reality, no one possesses it' (p. 51).

'Though all are destined from birth to endure violence, the realm of circumstances closes their minds to this truth. The strong is never perfectly strong nor the weak perfectly weak, but neither knows this' (p. 53).

'Thus violence overwhelms those it touches. In the end, it seems as external to the one who wields it as to the one who endures it. Here is born the notion of a destiny under which executioners and their victims are similarly innocent; conquerors and conquered are brothers in the same misery . . .' (p. 57).

'Thus war expunges every concept of a goal, even the goals of war. It expunges the idea of an end of war. The possibility of a situation so violent is unthinkable outside that situation; an end to it unthinkable within it' (p. 59).

'When the beaten man begs to be allowed to see another day, what response can this meek wish for life find . . .? The very possession of arms on one side and their lack on the other divest the imperiled life of nearly all its significance' (p. 60).
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant analysis of the Iliad 16 Jun 2004
By Jason Rinka - Published on Amazon.com
There's been a lot of renewed interest in The Iliad lately- some of it stems from "Troy", the Brad Pitt vehicle, but much of it comes from the inevitable drawing of parallels between yesterday and today. With more and more talk of America as "empire", reflections on empires and wars fought in years past has been a hot topic of discussion. Lewis Lapham, in his excellent collection of essays "Theater of War", has one particularly astute essay drawing a parallel between the Peloponnysian war and the current wars being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Other works, particularly recent books by Chris Hedges, have attempted to delve into the psychology, the reason, of war, rather than just the methods used to wage it. Simone Weil writes in a similar vein, albeit over 50 years ahead of her time. The book itself is an extended essay- in French and English. She picks through the Iliad, drawing out a verse and following it with analyses, successfully laying out her thesis- that the main character of the Iliad is, in fact, "force". Not Achilles, not Hector, but force itself. The use of it, the misuse of it, and the fates of those who rely on it. Citing some of the most insightful passages in the Iliad, and sometimes just a single line ("Ares is just, and kills those who kill"), Weil uses the Iliad as a launching pad into the psychology of war and violence. Having lived through WWII, one can imagine Weil didn't look far for contempory situations to draw parallels to. Overall, this is an excellent work, as a companion to The Iliad and on its own.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening 12 Feb 2012
By David Fowler - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found this book, with Simone Weil's essay and the commentary by Holoka, to be extremely helpful as I read the Iliad - it helped to act as a lens through which I could see the "big picture" of the great epic (even if that lens might have its flaws or limitations). Highly recommended for those interested in the Iliad.
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