The Iliad, or, The Poem of Force (Simone Weil, 1940)
The Iliad, or, The Poem of Force was written in the summer and fall of 1940, after the fall of France .. It may thus be read as an indirect commentary on that tragic event, which signalized the triumph of the most extreme modern expression of force. It was originally published, under the acrostical pseudonym “Emile Novis,” in the December 1940 and January 1941 issues of the Marseilles literary monthly, Cahiers du Sud. The present translation is by Mary McCarthy. The quotations from Homer were first translated from the French manuscript by Miss McCarthy and then checked and revised by Dwight Macdonald in accordance with the Greek text. “The Iliad” appeared in the November 1945 issue of Politics and was later issued in pamphlet form.
The true hero, the true subject, the center of the Iliad is force. Force employed by man, force that enslaves man, force before which man’s flesh shrinks away. In this work, at all times, the human spirit is shown as modified by its relations with force, as swept away, blinded by the very force it imagined it could handle, as deformed by the weight of the force it submits to. For those dreamers who considered that force, thanks to progress, would soon be a thing of the past, the Iliad could appear as an historical document; for others, whose powers of recognition are more acute and who perceive force, today as yesterday, at the very center of human history, the Iliad is the purest and the loveliest of mirrors…. [PDF]