"War and the Iliad
joins together for the first time in a single volume Simone Weil's ferocious lament ('The Iliad or the Poem of Force'), with her less well known contemporary Rachel Bespaloff's antiphonal meditation on conflict, pacifism and justice. Mary McCarthy was the original translator, and her luminous work is reprinted here."
– Marina Warner, The Times Literary Supplement
"Book of the Year"
"Written just before and during the second world war, these two long essays unearth a set of moral teachings antecedent to the Gospels, estranged by history but profoundly relevant to our time. Homer's Iliad
is remarkable, the essayists agree, for presenting warring sides with equal compassion. As Weil writes, only the person 'who has measured the dominion of force, and knows how not to respect it', is capable of justice and love." Greg Jackson, The Guardian
"The publication of Simone Weil's essay...[was] an event of great importance to those of us who read it. This is one of the most moving and original literary essays ever written."
– Elizabeth Hardwick
"In the early months of the Second World War two brilliant and despairing French women of Jewish background each wrote an essay on the Iliad. Weil's 'The Iliad, or The Poem of Force', and Bespaloff's 'On the Iliad' remain the twentieth century's most beloved, tortured, and profound responses to the world's greatest and most disturbing poem. Before the world ended, Mary McCarthy had translated both essays into English, and plans were soon made to publish them together in a book, but to no avail. Here, thanks to NYRB (one of the very few happy innovations in contemporary publishing), the two are finally between the same covers. This is an especially important service for Bespaloff's essay, which has never been readily available as Weil's."
– Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic Monthly