Emil Mihai Cioran
8 April 1911
|Died||20 June 1995 84) (aged|
|Other names||E. M. Cioran|
|School|| Continental philosophy |
|Suicide, nihilism, ethics, literature, aesthetics, poetry, religion, music|
Emil Cioran (Romanian: [eˈmil t͡ʃoˈran] (
Cioran was born in Resinár, Szeben County, Austria-Hungary (today Rășinari, Sibiu County, Romania). His father, Emilian Cioran, was an Orthodox priest. His mother, Elvira (née Comaniciu), was originally from Alsóvenice (today Veneția de Jos as part of Părău, Romania).
After focusing on Humanities at the Gheorghe Lazăr High School in Sibiu, Cioran, at age 17, entered the University of Bucharest, where he studied philosophy and immediately met Eugène Ionesco and Mircea Eliade, who became his friends. Future Romanian philosopher Constantin Noica and future Romanian thinker Petre Țuțea became his closest academic colleagues; all three studied under Tudor Vianu and Nae Ionescu. Cioran, Eliade, and Țuțea became supporters of Ionescu's ideas, known as Trăirism.
Cioran had a good command of German. His early studies revolved around Immanuel Kant, Arthur Schopenhauer, and especially Friedrich Nietzsche. He became an agnostic, taking as an axiom "the inconvenience of existence". While at the University, he was influenced by Georg Simmel, Ludwig Klages and Martin Heidegger, but also by the Russian philosopher Lev Shestov, whose contribution to Cioran's central system of thought was the belief that life is arbitrary. Cioran's graduation thesis was on Henri Bergson, whom he later rejected, claiming Bergson did not comprehend the tragedy of life.[ citation needed ]
In 1933, he received a scholarship to the University of Berlin, where he came into contact with Klages and Nicolai Hartmann. While in Berlin, he became interested in the policies of the Nazi regime, contributed a column to Vremea dealing with the topic (in which Cioran confessed that "there is no present-day politician that I see as more sympathetic and admirable than Hitler",while expressing his approval for the Night of the Long Knives—"what has humanity lost if the lives of a few imbeciles were taken"), and, in a letter written to Petru Comarnescu, described himself as "a Hitlerist". He held similar views about Italian fascism, welcoming victories in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, arguing that: "Fascism is a shock, without which Italy is a compromise comparable to today's Romania".
Cioran's first book, On the Heights of Despair (literally translated: "On the Summits of Despair"), was published in Romania in 1934. It was awarded the Commission's Prize and the Young Writers Prize for one of the best books written by an unpublished young writer. Successively, The Book of Delusions (1935), The Transfiguration of Romania (1936), and Tears and Saints (1937), were also published in Romania (the first two titles have yet to be translated into English).
Although Cioran was never a member of the group, it was during this time in Romania that he began taking an interest in the ideas put forth by the Iron Guard—a far right organization whose nationalist ideology he supported until the early years of World War II, despite allegedly disapproving of their violent methods.
Cioran revised The Transfiguration of Romania heavily in its second edition released in the 1990s, eliminating numerous passages he considered extremist or "pretentious and stupid". In its original form, the book expressed sympathy for totalitarianism,a view which was also present in various articles Cioran wrote at the time, and which aimed to establish "urbanization and industrialization" as "the two obsessions of a rising people". Marta Petreu's An Infamous Past: E.M. Cioran and the Rise of Fascism in Romania, published in English in 2005, gives an in-depth analysis of The Transfiguration.
His early call for modernization was, however, hard to reconcile with the traditionalism of the Iron Guard.In 1934, he wrote, "I find that in Romania the sole fertile, creative, and invigorating nationalism can only be one which does not just dismiss tradition, but also denies and defeats it". Disapproval of what he viewed as specifically Romanian traits had been present in his works ("In any maxim, in any proverb, in any reflection, our people expresses the same shyness in front of life, the same hesitation and resignation... [...] Everyday Romanian [truisms] are dumbfounding."), which led to criticism from the far right Gândirea (its editor, Nichifor Crainic, had called The Transfiguration of Romania "a bloody, merciless, massacre of today's Romania, without even [the fear] of matricide and sacrilege"), as well as from various Iron Guard papers.
After returning from Berlin in 1936, Cioran taught philosophy at the Andrei Șaguna High School in Brașov for a year. In 1937, he left for Paris with a scholarship from the French Institute of Bucharest, which was then prolonged until 1944. After a short stay in his home country (November 1940 – February 1941), Cioran never returned again. This last period in Romania was the one in which he exhibited a closer relationship with the Iron Guard, which by then had taken power (see National Legionary State ). On 28 November, for the state-owned Romanian Radio, Cioran recorded a speech centered on the portrait of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, former leader of the movement, praising him and the Guard for, among other things, "having given Romanians a purpose".
He later renounced not only his support for the Iron Guard, but also their nationalist ideas, and frequently expressed regret and repentance for his emotional implication in it. For example, in a 1972 interview, he condemned it as "a complex of movements; more than this, a demented sect and a party", saying, "I found out then [...] what it means to be carried by the wave without the faintest trace of conviction. [...] I am now immune to it".
Cioran started writing The Passionate Handbook in 1940 and finished it by 1945. It was the last book he wrote in Romanian, though not the last to deal with pessimism and misanthropy through delicate and lyrical aphorisms. Cioran published books only in French thereafter.
In 1949, his first French book, A Short History of Decay, was published by Gallimard and was awarded the Rivarol Prize in 1950. Cioran later refused every literary prize he was given.
The Latin Quarter of Paris became Cioran's permanent residence. He lived most of his life in isolation, avoiding the public, but still maintained contact with numerous friends, including Mircea Eliade, Eugène Ionesco, Paul Celan, Samuel Beckett, Henri Michaux and Fernando Savater.
Cioran died of Alzheimer's diseaseand is buried at the Montparnasse Cemetery.
Professing a lack of interest in conventional philosophy in his early youth, Cioran dismissed abstract speculation in favor of personal reflection and passionate lyricism. "I invented nothing. I've been the one and only secretary of my own sensations", he later said.
Pessimism characterizes all of his works, which many critics trace back to events of his childhood (in 1935 his mother is reputed to have told him that if she had known he was going to be so unhappy she would have aborted him). However, Cioran's pessimism (in fact, his skepticism, even nihilism) remains both inexhaustible and, in its own particular manner, joyful; it is not the sort of pessimism which can be traced back to simple origins, single origins themselves being questionable. When Cioran's mother spoke to him of abortion, he confessed that it did not disturb him, but made an extraordinary impression which led to an insight about the nature of existence ("I'm simply an accident. Why take it all so seriously?" is what he later said in reference to the incident).
His works often depict an atmosphere of torment, a state that Cioran himself experienced, and came to be dominated by lyricism and, often, the expression of intense and even violent feeling. The books he wrote in Romanian especially display this latter characteristic. Preoccupied with the problems of death and suffering, he was attracted to the idea of suicide, believing it to be an idea that could help one go on living, an idea which he fully explored in On the Heights of Despair. He revisits suicide in depth in The New Gods, which contains a section of aphorisms devoted to the subject. The theme of human alienation, the most prominent existentialist theme, presented by Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, is thus formulated, in 1932, by young Cioran: "Is it possible that existence is our exile and nothingness our home?" in On the Heights of Despair.
Cioran's works encompass many other themes as well: original sin, the tragic sense of history, the end of civilization, the refusal of consolation through faith, the obsession with the absolute, life as an expression of man's metaphysical exile, etc. He was a thinker passionate about history; widely reading the writers that were associated with the "Decadent movement". One of these writers was Oswald Spengler who influenced Cioran's political philosophy in that he offered Gnostic reflections on the destiny of man and civilization. According to Cioran, as long as man has kept in touch with his origins and hasn't cut himself off from himself, he has resisted decadence. Today, he is on his way to his own destruction through self-objectification, impeccable production and reproduction, excess of self-analysis and transparency, and artificial triumph.
Regarding God, Cioran has noted that "without Bach, God would be a complete second rate figure" and that "Bach's music is the only argument proving the creation of the Universe cannot be regarded as a complete failure".In an interview he stated that Bach had been a "kind of religion" for him. He mentioned that Bach and Dostoyevsky were the two great obsessions of his life, but that while his passion for Dostoyevsky ended up diminishing somewhat, his obsession with Bach "remained intact".
William H. Gass called Cioran's work "a philosophical romance on the modern themes of alienation, absurdity, boredom, futility, decay, the tyranny of history, the vulgarities of change, awareness as agony, reason as disease".
Cioran became most famous while writing not in Romanian but French, a language with which he had struggled since his youth. During Cioran's lifetime, Saint-John Perse called him "the greatest French writer to honor our language since the death of Paul Valéry." [ citation needed ]Cioran's tone and usage in his adopted language were seldom as harsh as in Romanian (though his use of Romanian is said to be more original).
After the death of Cioran's long-term companion, Simone Boué, a collection of Cioran's manuscripts (over 30 notebooks) were found in the couple's apartment by a manager who tried, in 2005, to auction them. A decision taken by the Court of Appeal of Paris stopped the commercial sale of the collection. However, in March 2011, the Court of Appeal ruled that the seller was the legitimate owner of the manuscripts. Amid the manuscripts, which were mainly drafts of works that had already been published, an unedited journal was found which encompassed his life after 1972 (the year in which his Notebooks end). This document is probably Cioran's last unpublished work.
An aged Cioran is the main character in a play by Romanian dramatist-actor Matei Vișniec, Mansardă la Paris cu vedere spre moarte ("A Paris Loft with a View on Death"). The play, depicting an imaginary meeting between Vișniec and Emil Cioran,was first brought to the stage in 2007, under the direction of Radu Afrim and with a cast of Romanian and Luxembourgian actors; Cioran was played by Constantin Cojocaru. Stagings were organized in the Romanian city of Sibiu and in the Luxembourg, at Esch-sur-Alzette (both Sibiu and Luxembourg City were the year's European Capital of Culture). In 2009, the Romanian Academy granted posthumous membership to Cioran.
All of Cioran's major works in French have been translated into English by Richard Howard.
"Cioran was impressed especially by Mainländer".
I'm simply an accident. Why take it all so seriously?.
Eugène Ionesco was a Romanian-French playwright who wrote mostly in French, and one of the foremost figures of the French Avant-garde theatre. Beyond ridiculing the most banal situations, Ionesco's plays depict the solitude and insignificance of human existence in a tangible way.
Mircea Eliade was a Romanian historian of religion, fiction writer, philosopher, and professor at the University of Chicago. He was a leading interpreter of religious experience, who established paradigms in religious studies that persist to this day. His theory that hierophanies form the basis of religion, splitting the human experience of reality into sacred and profane space and time, has proved influential. One of his most influential contributions to religious studies was his theory of Eternal Return, which holds that myths and rituals do not simply commemorate hierophanies, but, at least to the minds of the religious, actually participate in them.
The Forbidden Forest is a 1955 novel by the Romanian writer Mircea Eliade. The story takes place between 1936 and 1948 in Bucharest and several other European cities, and follows a Romanian man who is on a spiritual quest while being torn between two women. The book was written between the years 1949 and 1954. It contains several elements and themes which also appear in the author's scholarly work, such as initiation rites and the division between sacred and profane time.
Romanian literature is literature written by Romanian authors, although the term may also be used to refer to all literature written in the Romanian language.
Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, commonly known as Corneliu Codreanu, was a Romanian politician who was the founder and charismatic leader of the Iron Guard, an ultranationalist, antisemitic, antimagyar, and antigypsy organization active throughout most of the interwar period. Generally seen as the main variety of local fascism, and noted for its Romanian Orthodox-inspired revolutionary message, the Iron Guard grew into an important actor on the Romanian political stage, coming into conflict with the political establishment and democratic forces. The Legionnaires traditionally referred to Codreanu as Căpitanul, and he held absolute authority over the organization until his death. He is cited on the list of the 100 Greatest Romanians.
Tudor Vianu was a Romanian literary critic, art critic, poet, philosopher, academic, and translator. Known for his left-wing and anti-fascist convictions, he had a major role on the reception and development of Modernism in Romanian literature and art. He was married to Elena Vianu, herself a literary critic, and was the father of Ion Vianu, a well-known psychiatrist, writer and essayist.
Mihail Manoilescu was a Romanian journalist, engineer, economist, politician and memoirist, who served as Foreign Minister of Romania during the summer of 1940. An active promoter of and contributor to fascist ideology and anti-Semitic sentiment, he was a financial backer of the Iron Guard in the late 1930s. His corporatist ideas influenced economic policy in several countries during the 1930s, particularly in Brazil.
Constantin Noica was a Romanian philosopher, essayist and poet. His preoccupations were throughout all philosophy, from epistemology, philosophy of culture, axiology and philosophic anthropology to ontology and logics, from the history of philosophy to systematic philosophy, from ancient to contemporary philosophy, from translating and interpretation to criticism and creation. In 2006 he was included to the list of the 100 Greatest Romanians of all time by a nationwide poll.
Nae Ionescu was a Romanian philosopher, logician, mathematician, professor, and journalist. Near the end of his career, he became known for his antisemitism and devotion to far right politics, in the years leading up to World War II.
Haig Acterian was a Romanian film and theater director, critic, dramatist, poet, journalist, and fascist political activist. Alongside Mihail Sebastian and Camil Petrescu, he is considered one of the major Romanian theater chroniclers in the interwar period.
Gândirea, known during its early years as Gândirea Literară - Artistică - Socială, was a Romanian literary, political and art magazine.
Duiliu Zamfirescu was a Romanian novelist, poet, short story writer, lawyer, nationalist politician, journalist, diplomat and memoirist. In 1909, he was elected a member of the Romanian Academy, and, for a while in 1920, he was Foreign Minister of Romania. Zamfirescu is best remembered for his Comăneștenilor literary cycle, comprising his novels Viața la țară, Tănase Scatiu, În război, Îndreptări and Anna.
Theodor Cazaban was a Romanian anti-communist writer. He graduated from the University of Bucharest with a degree in letters, and fled to France in 1947. While in Paris, he was a staff member of the anti-communist newspaper 'La Nation Roumaine' and contributed to the broadcasts of Radio Free Europe. In 1963 he published the novel Parages, in which he describes Communist persecutions of Romanian intellectuals, such as Mircea Eliade, Emil Cioran, Eugène Ionesco and others.
Zigu Ornea was a Romanian cultural historian, literary critic, biographer and book publisher. The author of several monographs focusing on the evolution of Romanian culture in general and Romanian literature in particular, he chronicled the debates and meeting points between conservatism, nationalism, and socialism. His main early works are primarily dedicated to the 19th and early 20th century cultural and political currents heralded by Junimea, by the left-wing ideologues of Poporanism and by the Sămănătorul circle, followed independently or in relation to one another. Written as expansions of this study were Ornea's biographical essays on some of the period's leading theorists: Titu Maiorescu, Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea and Constantin Stere.
Petre Țuțea was a Romanian philosopher, journalist and economist.
Șerban Cioculescu was a Romanian literary critic, literary historian and columnist, who held teaching positions in Romanian literature at the University of Iași and the University of Bucharest, as well as membership of the Romanian Academy and chairmanship of its Library. Often described as one of the most representative Romanian critics of the interwar period, he took part in the cultural debates of the age, and, as a left-wing sympathizer who supported secularism, was involved in extended polemics with the traditionalist, far right and nationalist press venues. From early on in his career, Cioculescu was also noted for his selective approach to literary modernism and the avant-garde, preferring to place his cultural references with Neoclassicism.
Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy is a historical study of the different forms of shamanism around the world written by the Romanian historian of religion Mircea Eliade. It was first published in France by Librarie Payot under the French title of Le Chamanisme et les techniques archaïques de l'extase in 1951. The book was subsequently translated into English by Willard R. Trask and published by Princeton University Press in 1964.
Sandu Tudor was a Romanian poet, journalist, theologian and Orthodox monk. Having had an adventurous youth, he first became known in the late 1920s, when he contributed to the modern Orthodox revival, rallying with the journal Gândirea. Although a traditionalist and a critic of materialism, he was closely associated with the modernist scene, and generally supported left-wing causes. Tudor was also a scandal-prone journalist and newspaper owner, who faced accusations of slander and was avoided by his peers.
Petre Paul Negulescu was a Romanian philosopher and conservative politician, known as a disciple and continuator of Titu Maiorescu. Affiliated with Maiorescu's Junimea society from his early twenties, he debuted as a positivist and monist, attempting to reconcile art for art's sake with an evolutionist philosophy of culture. He was a lecturer and tenured professor at the University of Iași, where he promoted the Junimist lobby against left-wing competitors, and formalized his links with the Conservative Party in 1901. From 1910, he taught at the University of Bucharest, publishing works on Renaissance philosophy and other historical retrospectives.
Petru Virgil Manoliu was a Romanian novelist, essayist, and newspaper editor. Shaped by philosophical readings, marked by a sense of anxiety and the influence of André Gide, much of his early literary work falls into the category of Trăirism. These traits are complemented by Manoliu's activities in cultural journalism, alternating between contributions to left-wing papers and support for the far-right and mystical philosophy of Nae Ionescu. By the time of World War II, he had also begun writing historical fiction and plays, penning anticommunist and anti-Soviet articles in the central newspapers.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Emil Cioran .|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Emil Cioran|