Born in Paris, Weil came from a highly intellectual family. After a brilliant academic career at school and university, she taught philosophy interspersed with periods of hard manual labor on farms and in factories. Throughout her life she combined sophisticated and scholarly interests with an extreme moral intensity and identification with the poor and oppressed. A twentieth-century Pascal (see Vol. 4), this ardently spiritual woman was a social thinker, sensitive to the crises of modern humanity. Jewish by birth, Christian by vocation, and Greek by aesthetic choice, Weil has influenced religious thinking profoundly in the years since her death. "Humility is the root of love," she said as she questioned traditional theologians and held that the apostles had badly interpreted Christ's teaching. Christianity was, she thought, to blame for the heresy of progress. During World War II, Weil starved herself to death, refusing to eat while victims of the war still suffered.
Hermann Broch was a novelist, playwright, mathematician, and engineer. He was born in Vienna in 1886; he came to the United States in 1938. The Sleepwalkers (1932) Broch's prose trilogy describes three stages in the disintegration of modern European society. The Death of Virgil (1945), whom Broch considered a prototype of the modern individual, depicts the last eighteen hours of the life of Virgil. Broch's vision of the immanence of death will probably be regarded as his most original contribution to human experience. Broch was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship (1941-42), a membership in the American Institute of Arts and Letters (1942), and a Rockefeller Fellowship for Philosophical and Psychological Research at Princeton (1942-44). Broch died in 1951.
Mary McCarthy, 1912 - 1989 Writer and critic Mary McCarthy was born in Seattle, Washington. At the age of six, she was orphaned when both her parents died of influenza. She was brought up in a strict Catholic environment by two sets of wealthy grandparents. She attended Annie Wright Seminary in Tacoma, WA and Vassar College in New York, where she studied literature. She graduated with honors at the age of twenty-one, married her first husband, and moved to New York. McCarthy worked as an editor at Covici Friede Publishers from 1936-37 and Partisan Review from 1937-38. She taught or lectured at Beard College, in Annendale-on-Hudson, New York from 1945-46 and 1986; Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, New York in 1948; University College, London in 1980; and Vassar College in 1982. She was a theatre critic for the Partisan Review from 1938-62. McCarthy was a member of the American Academy and the National Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1938, she married critic Edmund Wilson, her second husband, with whom she had her only child. McCarthy's seven novels appeared between 1942 and 1979. McCarthy's best selling novel, "The Group" (1963), was a sexual depiction written about classmates at Vassar and their lives following college. It was made into a movie in 1966. Her first book, "The Company She Keeps" (1972), is a satire about New York intellectuals who search for their identity through psychoanalysis after the failure of marriage. "Birds of America" (1971) focuses on a boy and his mother, who refuses to accept modern conveniences. "Cannibals and Missionaries" (1979) explores the psychology of terrorism. McCarthy has also written critical works, travel books and the autobiographical "Memoirs of a Catholic Girlhood" (1957). McCarthy received several awards, which included the Edward MacDowell Medal (1982), the National Medal of Literature (1984) and the first Rochester Literary Award (1985). McCarthy also had honorary degrees from six universities. On October 25, 1989, Mary McCarthy died of cancer in New York.