Foreign Languages & Literatures ETDs

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There is a good deal of modern literature particularly that of the post­ World War II period, which might be best described as “distorted” author deliberately focuses on some negative aspect of life, usually the sordid, and exaggerates it to an unbelievable nightmare. The author makes his point all too well. In fact, some of these works are masterpieces of human understanding. However, when one book after another presents the same negative theme, treated in the same way for a kind of shock effect, we begin to feel as though literature has as its sole aim a kind of psychological dissec­tion. We feel a strange sensation of unbalance as though the surgeon had forgotten to put back one of our vital organs, or had removed one of our limbs.

On reading for the first time a book like Simone Weil’s La Pesantuer et la grace, we have the feeling of meeting an old friend whom we believed had died. This is not to imply that the negative is missing from her works, but rather that the negative has meaning by virtue of its participation in a more total perspective of life. Simone Weil realized as fully as Beckett, Camus and other writers and philosophers the absurdity of man's existence the impossibility of achieving what he wants or wanting what he achieves. She looks at the absurd squarely, examines it thoroughly, and sees no reason for its giv­ing rise to disequilibrium, but to the contrary finds in the confronting of the impossible a path to truth and a source of spiritual significance.

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Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures

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Patricia Flagg Sanborn