I first got turned on to the work of E. M. Cioran when a life long Atheist friend of mine was vacationing in Paris and stumbled on his work in a bookstore there. My friend was a brilliant guy and a librarian, and thought that he had exhausted all of the works of every Atheist worth his or her salt until he read Cioran. He just could not believe that he had never heard of this philosopher before. Of course in our usual all night beer drinking Christian verses Atheist debates, naturally he thought he had found THE smoking gun to smoke out my faith. Until he found out that Cioran takes a scorched earth policy and has as much contempt for his own Atheism as its Theistic counterpart.
Well, naturally I was intrigued and had to start reading this guy. I was floored right off the bat. Who is this guy? How is this man of contradictions after contradictions rolled within more contradictions in his rapier savage usage of words that confound all categories could I ever hope to get a handle on him? One part of me wanted to stop reading him, on the other hand I could not stop reading him. At first one might put the book down and call him a nihilist, only to pick it back up and find the most life affirming statement one has ever heard. What did he just say? He said that he would give anything to go back in time be a slave building the pyramids if only to lose himself in something so much greater than himself. Or how about this one: “The only sin I have never committed was being a father”. Cioran is undiscovered precisely because the waters of the mind he has charted are undiscovered. When he penetrates ones cerebral cortex he rides down Niagara falls in the barrels of your skull. This is tough medicine for us all. And that is exactly why all of us need to be smacked down hard by this Titan. It clears out the sinuses so to speak.
Just when you think he is a man of the Enlightenment, he says, “If I had the choice between the French Enlightenment and Outer Mongolia, I would take Outer Mongolia”. “Whatttt”??? is the response from the left bank Parisian community. Then he turns right around and says that it is, “Time for Diogenes the Cynic to challenge the Son of God”. Cioran has no problem with Fascism and Christendom, it is Christ personally who he hates. Usually with humanitarian Atheists it is the other way around. No, to this cranky brilliant Romanian he takes no prisoners. His aphorisms could be easily dismissed as mere rants if he wasn’t such a genius in the way he stabs you.
After reading a great deal of Cioran’s work I just could not find if there was anybody that he found was worth his time. Then I found one. He says that only the Cynics, the Saints, and the Insomniacs see clearly because they have gone past the twilight of the mind as civilization goes from logic to epilepsy. Cioran was a recluse and lived out his days eating food off of the tables of the leftovers at university cafeterias, and existed in a rotting garret in Paris, stating that the only thing worth believing in is “breathing”. Cioran’s work breathes, but as Micheal Tanner said, “In the end he suffocates us all”.
Emil Cioran & Petre Tutea interview w/ Gabriel Liiceanu (English subs)
rodericusignatius·Jul 21, 2006
Prominent members of the Romanian Generation of the 1930’s, Emil Cioran (1911-1995) and Petre Tutea (1902-1991), talk about each other in this interview by Gabriel Liiceanu.
Cioran comments on Tutea’s Marxist past before converting to Christianity, while imprisoned. Tutea, on the other hand, analyzes Cioran’s struggle to find God and believe in Him — although never fulfilling his religious quest — and refutes his characterization as an atheist. Tutea brings forward Cioran’s fierce pessimism and his Schopenhauerian influences.
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