Rachel Bespaloff (1895–1949) was born to a Ukrainian Jewish family—her father was the Zionist theoretician Daniel Pasmanik—and raised in Geneva. Bespaloff intended to pursue a musical career, but after an encounter with the thinker Leo Shestov, she devoted herself to the study of philosophy. One of the first French readers of Heidegger, Bespaloff published essays in the 1930s about Kierkegaard, Gabriel Marcel, André Malraux, and Julien Green, among other philosophers and writers. In 1942, she left France for the United States, where she worked as a scriptwriter for the French Section of the Office of War Information before teaching French literature at Mount Holyoke. In 1949, Rachel Bespaloff committed suicide, leaving a note that said she was “too fatigued to carry on.”
These essays do more than prove the permanent relevance of Homer’s great poem. They analyze the logic of war itself, and explore how intoxicating violence defines the human condition.