Emil Cioran: Philosopher of the Abyss

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Emil Cioran: Philosopher of the Abyss

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Muokkaaja: elokuu 18, 2016, 9:57 am

From the New York Times obituary: "E. M. Cioran, a Romanian-born writer known for his essays on philosophy and culture and his emphasis on despair, emptiness and death. ... Mr. Cioran himself once wrote: "However much I have frequented the mystics, deep down I have always sided with the Devil; unable to equal him in power, I have tried to be worthy of him, at least, in insolence, acrimony, arbitrariness and caprice." ... Susan Sontag called him a practitioner of "a new kind of philosophizing: personal, aphoristic, lyrical, anti-systematic." ... The source of his world view, he said in an interview published in 1994, was severe insomnia that began plaguing him as a youth and led him to give up his faith in philosophy after years of studying it."

He also forms a loose trinity with two other Romanian writers: Eugene Ionesco and Mircea Eliade While Cioran falls outside the chronological purview of the European Decadents, he has written extensively about cultural decadence and the decline of civilizations, especially after the apocalypse of the Second World War. The Short History of Decay was written in 1949 and it confronts of the criminality and slaughter of that conflict in biting aphorisms and bon mots that radiate like little black holes.

elokuu 14, 2016, 12:55 pm

>1 kswolff:

Thanks for the brief! (Your touchstones are way off, though.)

elokuu 15, 2016, 12:19 pm

2: Re: touchstones, Librarything has been utterly disastrous with its touchstones for a while. I'm not sure why that is? But it has been consistent in its dadaist nonsense. Dear Librarything, 'What the hell? Fix your touchstones!"

Muokkaaja: elokuu 15, 2016, 1:16 pm

Any hints on how to pronounce Cioran?

Muokkaaja: elokuu 15, 2016, 1:59 pm

>3 kswolff:

You can fix them in the message edit screen, you know, by clicking "(others)" to get a list of better options. In the case of your E. M. Cioran touchstone, the fault is evidently yours: you used single (work) brackets rather than double (author).

elokuu 15, 2016, 2:16 pm

4: "chaw run", or something close to it.

I read his "Precis de decomposition" and was very disappointed because it was completely and utterly non-constructive: only complaint and negativity. No way out at all. But I'll grant that it was very very thoroughly so, if that's your cup of tea!

elokuu 18, 2016, 9:54 am

6: Complaint and negativity was Cioran's stock in trade. And it was written in 1949 in the wake of Hiroshima and Auschwitz. Too bad more critics weren't saying, "Come on, Emil, lighten up. If you don't have anything nice to say, how about a smile?" Considering much of the chronic devastation, slaughter, and evil were perpetrated by goggle-eyed optimists and utopians on both ends of the political spectrum (see Hitler's and Stalin's New Jerusalems as evidence), more people on The Continent should have been more critical, more pessimistic, and more negative. If anything, Cioran shows how what we see as Western Civilization is nothing more than a gossamer veil over coarse barbarism.

But hey, there's always Jodi Picoult and Nicholas Sparks

elokuu 21, 2016, 12:33 pm

The critical question I had in mind was more like "Yes, Emil, but what should one do?" (Another work I had the same problem with was Minima Moralia.) I'll grant that I had no historical context to place it in when I was reading it and didn't think that it could be taken as an expression of shock.

elokuu 21, 2016, 6:46 pm

9: "Yes, Emil, but what should one do?" But Cioran is a philosopher not a city councilman. The lack of a program in his writing doesn't negate its value as cultural criticism. "What should one do?" was answered by Martin Heidegger, although Mel Brooks set it to music:

"Don't be stupid! Be a smarty!
Come and join the Nazi Party!"

elokuu 22, 2016, 7:26 pm

"This view will doubtless seem to many a paradox, an exaggeration, and a gloomy and depressing view at that. Yet it is nothing of the sort. It is not gloomy; on the contrary, it seeks to throw light upon a subject which ordinarily is left in obscurity. It is not depressing; on the contrary it is uplifting, since it views every man in the aspect of the highest demand made upon him, that he be spirit."

- Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death

elokuu 23, 2016, 7:18 am

I've been re-reading All Gall is Divided recently (horrid title, great cover) and am noticing this time around how often Cioran is amusing. Granted, very occasionally I'm smiling at him as toddler stomping its feet crying 'I hate the world' but usually I'm smiling with him: he actually had a good sense of humour.

No more than kswolff do I want him to suggest solutions. In the first place, I get the feeling that Cioran doubted there were any and in the second commiseration is sometimes as welcome as advice is.

elokuu 23, 2016, 3:26 pm

10: But what's a critique with no program?

elokuu 23, 2016, 7:52 pm

>13 defaults:

I'd say, it's the necessary understanding to any valid program. Why should one person be required to provide all of it? Once you read Cioran's critique, you might just the person to outline a program -- better equipped than you were before, and better suited to that task than is Cioran.

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