Saturday 2 September 2017

A Short History of Decay by E.M. Cioran   {Review by THOMAS}
Emil Cioran is the philosopher of personal and collective frailty and failure, of emptiness, of hopelessness, of the eschewing of all answers (“Having resisted the temptation to conclude, I have overcome the mind.”). He rails against society, against both choice and necessity, against all values. I thought I would like him more than I do. Perhaps it is that he trumpets his nihilism, that he shouts out the immanence of our demise from the event horizon of whatever black hole we are heading towards, that his pessimism is, above all, dramatic (does this call its authenticity into question? (I don’t think so)), that makes me tire of him (he should perhaps be read (by me, at least) in small doses). Our differences are perhaps more of temperament than of territory; to me the underlying nullity of existence is more irredeemable than tragic, and I am to a degree suspicious of the heroic trappings and lyricism of his despair. That said, Cioran is an important, interesting (and frequently amusing) thinker, an heir to Nietzsche, and there is much to admire (and be amused by) in his books. His words dissolve civilisation as acetone dissolves paint (that’s got to be a good thing). The contents page of this book reads like the publishing list of an American academic publisher (“Genealogy of Fanaticism – In the Graveyard of Definitions – Civilisation and Frivolity – Supremacy of the Adjective – Apotheosis of the Vague – The Reactionary Angels – Militant Mourning – Farewell to Philosophy – Obsession of the Essential” &c, &c), and the book itself contains enough nihilistic aphorisms to fill a lifetime’s worth of anti-inspirational calendars (now, there’s a publishing project…), for example: “One is ‘civilised’ insofar as one does not proclaim one’s leprosy.” Great stuff.
>> Six pleasant minutes with the miserabilist.
>> "Without the idea of suicide I would surely have killed myself."
>> The Apocalypse according to Cioran

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