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Sunlight coming in a window with purple flowers

Simone Weil

An Encounter

Simone Weil

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He entered my room and said: “You poor wretch, who understand nothing and know nothing – come with me and I will teach you of things you have no idea of.” I followed him.

He led me into a church. It was new and ugly. He led me before the altar and said: “Kneel.” I told him: “I have not been baptized.” He said: “Fall down on your knees before this place, with love, as before the place where truth exists.” I obeyed.

He led me out, and up to a garret from whose open window one could see the whole town, some wooden scaffoldings, and the river where boats were unloading. He made me sit down.

We were alone. He talked. Now and then somebody else would come in, join in the conversation, then go away again.

It was no longer winter; it was not yet spring. The trees’ branches were bare and without buds, in a cold air full of sunshine.

The light rose, shone bright, and then faded, and the stars and the moon shone through the window. Then the dawn rose once again.

Sometimes he paused and took some bread from a cupboard, and we shared it. That bread truly had the taste of bread. I have never found that taste again.

He poured wine for me and for himself, which tasted of the sun and of the soil on which that city was built.

Sometimes we lay down on the wooden floor, and the sweetness of sleep descended on me. Then I woke up, and drank the light of the sun.

He had promised me teaching, but he taught me nothing. We talked in a rambling way about all sorts of things, as old friends do.

One day he said to me, “Now go away.” I threw myself down, clung to his knees, begged him not to send me away. But he flung me out toward the stairs. I descended them as if unconscious, as if my heart was torn in shreds. I walked through the streets, and then I realized that I had no idea where that house was.

I have never tried to find it again. I saw that he had come for me by mistake. My place is not in that garret. It is anywhere, in a prison cell, in some bourgeois parlour full of trinkets and red plush, in a station waiting room. No matter where, but not in that garret. 

Sometimes I cannot keep myself from repeating, in fear and compunction, a little of what he said to me. How am I to know if I remember it correctly? He is not there to tell me.

I well know that he doesn’t love me. How could he love me? And yet there is something deep in me, some point of myself, which cannot prevent itself from thinking, with fear and trembling, that perhaps, in spite of everything, he does love me.


From Simone Weil, First and Last Notebooks, trans. Richard Rees (Oxford University, 1970), 65–66.

Image from Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

portrait of Simone Weil
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