Emil M. Cioran - book author
Born in 1911 in Rășinari, a small village in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, raised under the rule of a father who was a Romanian Orthodox priest and a mother who was prone to depression, Emil Cioran wrote his first five books in Romanian. Some of these are collections of brief essays (one or two pages, on average); others are collections of aphorisms. Suffering from insomnia since his adolescent years in Sibiu, the young Cioran studied philosophy in the “little Paris” of Bucarest.
A prolific publicist, he became a well-known figure, along with Mircea Eliade, Constantin Noïca, and his future close friend Eugene Ionesco (with whom he shared the Royal Foundation’s Young Writers Prize in 1934 for his first book, On the Heights of Despair).
Influenced by the German romantics, by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and the Lebensphilosophie of Schelling and Bergson, by certain Russian writers, including Chestov, Rozanov, and Dostoyevsky, and by the Romanian poet Eminescu, Cioran wrote lyrical and expansive meditations that were often metaphysical in nature and whose recurrent themes were death, despair, solitude, history, music, saintliness and the mystics (cf. Tears and Saints, 1937) – all of which are themes that one finds again in his French writings. In his highly controversial book, The Transfiguration of Romania (1937), Cioran, who was at that time close to the Romanian fascists, violently criticized his country and his compatriots on the basis of a contrast between such “little nations” as Romania, which were contemptible from the perspective of universal history and great nations, such as France or Germany, which took their destiny into their own hands.
After spending two years in Germany, Cioran arrived in Paris in 1936. He continued to write in Romanian until the early 1940s (he wrote his last article in Romanian in 1943, which is also the year in which he began writing in French). The break with Romanian became definitive in 1946, when, in the course of translating Mallarmé, he suddenly decided to give up his native tongue since no one spoke it in Paris. He then began writing in French a book that, thanks to numerous intensive revisions, would eventually become the impressive 'A Short History of Decay' (1949) -- the first of a series of ten books in which Cioran would continue to explore his perennial obsessions, with a growing detachment that allies him equally with the Greek sophists, the French moralists, and the oriental sages. He wrote existential vituperations and other destructive reflections in a classical French style that he felt was diametrically opposed to the looseness of his native Romanian; he described it as being like a “straight-jacket” that required him to control his temperamental excesses and his lyrical flights. The books in which he expressed his radical disillusionment appeared, with decreasing frequency, over a period of more than three decades, during which time he shared his solitude with his companion Simone Boué in a miniscule garret in the center of Paris, where he lived as a spectator more and more turned in on himself and maintaining an ever greater distance from a world that he rejected as much on the historical level (History and Utopia, 1960) as on the ontological (The Fall into Time, 1964), raising his misanthropy to heights of subtlety (The Trouble with being Born, 1973), while also allowing to appear from time to time a humanism composed of irony, bitterness, and preciosity (Exercices d’admiration, 1986, and the posthumously published Notebooks).
Denied the right to return to Romania during the years of the communist regime, and attracting international attention only late in his career, Cioran died in Paris in 1995.
Translated by Thomas Cousineau
Emil M. Cioran is the author of books: On the Heights of Despair, The Trouble with Being Born, المياه كلها بلون الغرق, A Short History of Decay, لو كان آدم سعيدًا, The Temptation to Exist, Amurgul gândurilor, Tears and Saints, History and Utopia, Anathemas and Admirations
On the Heights of Despair shows Cioran's first grappling with themes he would return to in his mature works: despair and decay, absurdity and alienation, futility and the irrationality of existence. It also presents Cioran as a connoisseur of apocalypse, a theoretician of despair, for whom writing and philosophy both share the "lyrical virtues" that alone lead to a metaphysical revelation.
"No modern writer twists the knife with Cioran's dexterity. . . . His writing . . . is informed with the bitterness of genuine compassion."—Bill Marx, Boston Phoenix
"The dark, existential despair of Romanian philosopher Cioran's short meditations is paradoxically bracing and life-affirming. . . . Puts him in the company of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"This is self-pity as epigram, the sort of dyspeptic pronouncement that gets most people kicked out of bed but that has kept Mr. Cioran going for the rest of his life."—Judith Shulevitz, New York Times Book Review
E.M. Cioran confronts the place of today's world in the context of human history. He focuses on such major issues of the twentieth century as human progress, fanaticism, and science.
الكتابة نسيان الشيء لصالح تسميته أو معرفته. إنها كتابة تعبّر عن انتظار الكائن، وهي لذلك لا تأتي عبر منظومة فكرية؛ بل ضمن انقطاعية الكتابة المقطعية استجابةً لتشظي الكائن.
عَدَمية سيوران تستبعد أي هروب خارج عدمنا الزمني، فكيف نتمكن من معانقة الأبدية فـي حضن الزمن؟ إنه غنوصي ذو صفاء ووضوح فكري ينكر الخلاص. متصوف دنيوي متخلص من الأشكال الماورائية. فإذا النشوة عنده حضورٌ كلّيّ من دون موضوع وجِد: خواء ممتلئ. وهذا اللاشيء، عنده، هو كل شيء، فلا مجال لاستعادة الحالة الفردوسية الأولى، واليائس من خلاصه يصير عالم جمال. إنّ الإنسان الأخير هو إنسانٌ خاوٍ: إنه حكيم الأزمنة الحديثة.
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"A sort of final philosopher of the Western world. His statements have the compression of poetry and the audacity of cosmic clowning."—Washington Post
"An intellectual bombshell that blasts away at all kinds of cant, sham and conventionality. . . . [Cioran's] language is so erotic, his handling of words so seductive, that the act of reading becomes an encounter in the erogenous zone."—Jonah Raskin, L.A. Weekly
"Who can tell?" he wrote in the first paragraph of this book, first published in Romania in 1937. "To be sure, tears are their trace. Tears did not enter the world through the saints; but without them we would never have known that we cry because we long for a lost paradise." By following in their traces, "wetting the soles of one's feet in their tears," Cioran hoped to understand how a human being can renounce being human. Written in Cioran's characteristic aphoristic style, this flamboyant, bold, and provocative book is one of his most important—and revelatory—works.
Cioran focuses not on martyrs or heroes but on the mystics—primarily female—famous for their keening spirituality and intimate knowledge of God. Their Christianity was anti-theological, anti-institutional, and based solely on intuition and sentiment. Many, such as Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, and Saint John of the Cross, have produced classic works of mystical literature; but Cioran celebrates many more minor and unusual figures as well.
Following Nietzsche, he focuses explicitly on the political element hidden in saints' lives. In his hands, however, their charitable deeds are much less interesting than their thirst for pain and their equally powerful capacity to endure it. Behind their suffering and their uncanny ability to renounce everything through ascetic practices, Cioran detects a fanatical will to power.
"Like Nietzsche, Cioran is an important religious thinker. His book intertwines God and music with passion and tears. . . . [Tears and Saints] has a chillingly contemporary ring that makes this translation important here and now."—Booklist
"A small masterwork . . . a stringent examination of some persistent and murky notions in human history. . . . It is best to read Cioran while sitting. The impact upon the intellect can be temporarily stunning, and motor systems may give way under the assault."—Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Houston Chronicle
"Cioran has a claim to be regarded as among the handful of original minds . . . writing today."—New York Times
"A sort of final philosopher of the Western world. [Cioran's] statements have the compression of poetry and the audacity of cosmic clowning."—Washington Post
E. M. Cioran (1911-1995) was born and educated in Romania and lived in Paris from 1937 until his death. He is the author of numerous works, including On the Heights of Despair, also available from the University of Chicago Press.