The Temptation To Exist * Emil M. Cioran (isbn 0226106756)

Cioran (1911-1995) I only knew from a long anounced compilation project that is dedicated to this man and so far still not released. When I got the change to get a Dutch translation of him for review, I didn’t wait to take it, so now I have one of the five works of this Romenian philosopher that is available in my native language. This little book is released by the ‘historic publisher’ (“Historische Uitgeverij”) and the only Cioran text from this company. The other four are released by ‘laborer press’ (“Arbeiderspers”) from Belgium. The present book, La Tentation d’Exister consists of 11 essays that were released together in 1956 and in Dutch in 2001.

Cioran suffered from chronic depressions that were sometimes eased by mystic peaks. However Cioran never became fond of philosophy, he remained more of a philosopher than a mystic himself. Also his depressions have the upper hand in this bundle, all texts are totally splenetic. This depressed view on life also had its stamp on Ciorans view of the world. The world -but especially Europe- is falling apart in its misery. A small ‘point of light’ was the upcoming of fascism, of course with Hitler, but in Ciorans case especially in the form of the Iron Guard of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu (1899-1938). For a time, Cioran felt attracted to Codreanus legion. For this reason Cioran is one of these philosophers that are ‘not done’. But what do you find of this temporary interest of fascism in the reviewed book? Not much, but Cioran in general is difficult and it is hard to find out what he really thought. A good (or rather a very bad?) example in this respect is the article “a people of self contained” which is about the Jews. Cioran displays a love-hate relationship and I don’t know what his sentiments were when he wrote the article. The same goes for other things Cioran describes, but the overall tone is a severe pessimism. But because everything is written in a very bombastic style I frequently had to laugh of what Cioran has to say. I don’t know if this goes for everyone, the opening article -for example- is a punch in the face of the eclectic (New Age) thinker and other views could cause people to feel attacked as well.

All in all I enjoyed reading this little book and Cioran is (at least in my eyes) unique with his strange mixture of philosophy and mysticism and his descriptions of philosophy, history, cultures, literature and poetry. A well-read pessimist!

4 comments

  1. Amsterdam/Antwerpen staat in mijn boekje, ik heb het opgestuurd gehad uit Antwerpen, dus ik ben er vanuit gegaan dat het een Vlaamse uitgever met een Nederlandse afdeling was, maar je hebt gelijk. Bedankt voor de link.

  2. “Cioran suffered from chronic depressions that were sometimes eased by mystic peaks.”
    ….
    Interesting…Are you a diagnostician? Well,your profound conclusion doesn’t say anything about Cioran but rather about the standpoint from which you view Cioran. You might be suffering yourself from chronic common sense … which is an endemic disease on this planet,therefore called “normality”.Aren’t you lucky…

  3. Hello Cristian. The line you quote from my review is more or less a quote on my part too. The Dutch scholar “brilliant translator and essayist” (a quote from his publisher) wrote a lengthy introduction to the translation of this book. Maarten van Buuren isn’t a psychologist either (I think), but a philosopher and admirer of Cioran. I think Cioran’s works confirm the idea and I suppose that Van Buuren didn’t just give his essay the title “Between depression and extacy”. Does mentioning this lower Cioran in any way? Does writing about Nietzsche’s last years do anything about his books?

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