Weil was born in 1909 in Paris, the younger of two children. Growing up she compared herself unfavourably to her brother, a mathematical prodigy. Her parents were secularized Jews in a France in which anti-Semitism was a living reality. Weil’s subsequent hysterical and uncharacteristically prejudiced rejection of most of the Hebrew Scriptures and of what she considered to be the worship of power in Judaism is a serious ' aw, but its origin might charitably be laid at the door of early twentieth-century French anti-Semitism. Weil’s home was happy, although her relationship with her mother was unusually intense. During the First World War, Simone’s father worked as an army doctor, and the family moved frequently, settling in Paris a" er the cessation of hostilities. e war had profound and complex consequences for French society. A generation of Frenchmen was decimated, killed in the trenches or le" physically or psychologically scarred. One consequence of this missing generation was that French social and political institutions tended to be run by a gerontocracy. Young Frenchmen and women growing up in the 1920s and 1930s typically felt excluded and driven towards social and political extremism. Many regarded revolutionary politics, now ' ourishing in the Soviet Union, as a franchise on which the French had a moral copyright. Nonetheless, in spite of these undercurrents, mid-1920s France was blithely con# dent; it had been victorious in the First World War and was now insulated by the ' ow of reparations payments from Germany and by trade with its extensive colonies. is stability began to be undermined following the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and then, from 1936, by the outbreak of a politically motivated civil war in Spain across France’s western border.