En poursuivant votre navigation sur ce site, vous acceptez l'utilisation de cookies. Ces derniers assurent le bon fonctionnement de nos services. En savoir plus.

mardi, 12 mars 2019

Between Buddha & Führer: The Young Cioran on Germany


Between Buddha & Führer:
The Young Cioran on Germany

ecioran-barbarie.pngEmil Cioran
Apologie de la Barbarie: Berlin – Bucharest (1932-1941)
Paris: L’Herne, 2015

This is a very interesting book released by the superior publishing house L’Herne: a collection of Emil Cioran’s articles published in Romanian newspapers, mostly from before the war. Besides becoming a famous aphorist in later years, before the Allied victory, Cioran was still free to be a perceptive and biting cultural critic and political analyst.

While reading the book, I was chiefly interested in understanding the motivations behind Cioran’s support for nationalism and fascism. We can identify a few recurring themes:

  • A sense of humiliation at Romania’s underdevelopment, historical irrelevance, and cultural/intellectual dependence with regard to the West: “That is why the Romanian always agrees with the latest author he has read” (22).
  • A pronounced Germanophilia, appreciating German artists’ and intellectuals’ intensity, pathos, and diagnostic of Western decadence.
  • Frustration with democratic politics as leading selfish individualism and political impotence.
  • A marked preference for belief and irrational creativity over sterile rationalism and skepticism.

Cioran, who had already been well acquainted with German high culture during his studies in Romania, really took to Hitlerian Germany when he moved in 1933 there on a scholarship from the Humboldt Foundation. He writes:

In Germany, I realized that I was mistaken in believing that one can perfectly integrate a foreign culture. I hoped to identify myself perfectly with the values of German history, to cut my Romanian cultural roots to assimilate completely into German culture. I will not comment here on the absurdity of this illusion. (100)

The influence of Cioran’s German sources clearly shines through, including Nietzsche, Spengler, and Hitler himself.[1] [2] Cioran’s infatuation proved lasting. He wrote in 1937: “I think there are few people – even in Germany – who admire Hitler more than I do” (240).

On one level, Cioran’s politics are eminently realistic, frankly acknowledging the tragic side of human existence. He admires Italian Fascism and especially German National Socialism because these political movements had restored strong beliefs and had heightened the historical level and international power of these nations. If liberties must be trampled upon and certain individuals marginalized for a community to flourish, so be it. On foreign policy, he favors national self-sufficiency and Realpolitik as against dependence upon unstable or sentimental alliances.

Cioran is extremely skeptical of pacifist and universalist movements, convinced that great nations each have their own historical direction. Human history, in his view, would not necessarily converge and ought to remain pluralistic. If Europe was to converge to one culture, this would tragically require the triumph and imposition of one culture on the others. In particular, he believed Franco-German peace would be impossible without the collapse of one nation or the other (little did he suspect both would be crushed). Diversity and a degree of tension between nations and civilizations were good, providing “the essential antinomies which are the basis of life” (98).

Alongside these rather realistic considerations, spoken in a generally detached and level-headed tone, Cioran’s politics and in particular his nationalism were powerfully motivated by a sense of despair at the state of Romania. Cioran viscerally identified with his nation and intensely felt what he considered to be its deficiencies as a bucolic and peripheral culture. He then makes an at once passionate and desperate plea a zealous nationalist and totalitarian dictatorship which could spark Romania’s spark geopolitical, historical, and cultural renewal. Only such a regime, on the German model, could organize the youth and redeem an otherwise irrelevant nation. The continuation of democracy, by contrast, would mean only the disintegration of the nation into a collection of fissiparous and spoiled individuals: “Another period of ‘democracy’ and Romania will inevitably confirm its status of historical accident” (225).

Cioran_Reichsausländer_01-200x300.jpgA rare and stimulating combination in Cioran’s writings: unsentimental observation and intense pathos.

Cioran’s nationalism was highly idiosyncratic. He writes with amusing condescension of the local tradition of nostalgic and parochial patriotic writing: “To be sure, the geographical nationalism which we have witnessed up to now, with all its literature of patriotic exaltation and its idyllic vision of our historical existence, has its merits and its rights” (150). He was also uninterested in a nationalism as merely a moralistic defensive conservatism, defined merely as the maintenance of the borders of the Greater Romania which, with the annexation of Transylvania, had been miraculously established in the wake of the First World War.

For Cioran nationalism had to serve a great political project, it had to have a set of values and ambitions enabling a great historical flourishing, rather than be merely a sentimental or selfish end in itself. He writes of A. C. Cuza, a prominent politician who made anti-Semitism his signature issue:

Nationalism, as a sentimental formula, lacking in any ideological backbone or political perspectives, has no value. The dishonorable destiny of A. C. Cuza has no other explanation than the agitations of an apolitical man whose fanaticism, which has never gone further than anti-Semitism, was never able to become a fatality for Romania. If we had had no Jews, A. C. Cuza would never have thought of his country. (214)

Similarly, Cioran argues that the embrace of nationalism is dependent on time and purpose:

One is a nationalist only in a given time, when to not be a nationalist is a crime against the nation. In a given time means in a historical moment when everyone’s participation is a matter of conscience. The demands of the historical moment also mean: one is not [only] a nationalist, one is also a nationalist. (149-50)

Cioran was also – at least in this selection of articles – uninterested in Christianity and aggressively rejected Romania’s past and traditions, in favor a revolutionary project of martial organization, planned industrialization, and national independence. For Cioran, Romania needed nothing less than a “national revolution” requiring “a long-lasting megalomania” (154).

All this seems far removed from the agrarian traditionalism and Christian mysticism of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu’s Iron Guard. Cioran did, however, hail the Guard as a Romanian “awakening” and after Codreanu’s murder wrote a moving ode to the Captain [3]. By contrast, Cioran excoriates the consensual Transylvanian politician Iulia Maniu as an ineffectual and corrosive “Balkan buddhist,” peddling “political leukemia” (220).

A friend of mine observed that at least some aspects of Cioran’s program resembles Nicolae Ceaușescu’s later formula: perhaps late Romanian communism did seek to reflect some of the nation’s deep-seated aspirations concerning its place in the world.

One is struck by the contrast between Cioran’s lyricism on Germany, his desperate call to “transfigurate” Romania, and his perfectly lucid and quite balanced assessment of Fascist Italy [4]. There is something quite unreasonable in Cioran’s revolutionary ambitions. Fascism, certainly, is an effective way of instating political stability, steady leadership, and civil peace, annihilating communism, maximizing national power and independence, and educating and systematically organizing the nation according to whatever values you hold dear.

cioranherne.jpgBut fascism cannot work miracles. Politics must work with the human material and historical trajectory that one has. That is being true to oneself. To wish for total transformation and the tabula rasa is to invite disaster. Such revolutions are generally an exercise in self-harm. Once the passions and intoxications have settled, one finds the nation stunted and lessened: by civil war, by tyranny, by self-mutilation and deformation in the stubborn in the name of utopian goals. The historic gap with the ‘advanced’ nations is widened further still by the ordeal.

In the case of Romania, I can imagine that a spirited, moderate, and progressive authoritarian regime might have been able to raise the country’s historical level, just as Fascism had in Italy. Romania could aspire to be a Balkan hegemon. Beyond this, raising Romania would have required generations of careful and steady work, not hysterical outbursts, notably concerning population policy. The country had a comparatively low population density – a territory twice the size as England, but with half the population. There was a vigorous and progressive eugenics movement in interwar Romania [5] which also sought to improve the people’s biological stock, but this came to naught.

Another very striking aspect of Cioran’s fascism and nationalism is that he does not take race seriously. He says in his first article written from Germany (November 14, 1933):

If one objects that today’s political orientation [in Germany] is unacceptable, that it is founded on false values, that racism is a scientific illusion, and that German exclusivism is a collective megalomania, I would respond: What does it matter, so long as Germany feels well, fresh, and alive under such a regime?

Reducing National Socialism’s appeal to mere emotional power, although that is important, will certainly puzzle progressive racialists and evolutionary humanists.[2] [6] In the same vein, Cioran occasionally expresses sympathy for communism, because of that ideology’s ability to inspire belief. There is something irresponsible in all this. And yet, living in an order of rot and incoherence, we can only share in Cioran’s hope: “We have no other mission than to work for the intensification of the process of fatal collapse” (51).

One wonders how Cioran’s disenchantment with Hitlerian Germany occurred. The fact that he wrote his conversion note [7]On France [7] in 1941, before the major reversals for the Axis, is certainly intriguing.

Cioran’s comments on Romania’s ineptitude are striking and sadly well in line with the current state of the Balkans. Cioran hailed from Transylvania, which though having a Romanian majority, had significant Saxon and Hungarian minorities and a tradition of Austro-Hungarian government. Cioran contrasts the stolid Saxons with the erratic Romanians, the staid Transylvanian “citizens” with the corrupt “patriots” of the old-Romanian provinces (Wallachia, Moldova). So while he rejected any idea of Romania becoming merely a respectable, prosperous “Switzerland,” Cioran also desired some good old-fashioned (bourgeois?) competence. He indeed calls Transylvania “Romania’s Prussia.”

To this day, besides Bucharest, the wealthier and more functional parts of the country are to be found in Transylvania. In the 2014 presidential elections, there was an eerie overlap [8] between the vote for the liberal-conservative candidate Klaus Iohannes and the historical boundaries of Austria-Hungary.

What I find most stimulating in Cioran is his dialectic between his concerns as a pure intellectual – lucidity, the vanity of things, universal truth – and his recognition of and desire for the intoxicating needs of Life: belief, action in the here-and-now, ruthlessness, and passion. Cioran writes:

The oscillation between preoccupations that could not be further from current events and the need to adopt, within the historical process, an immediate attitude, produces, in the mind of certain contemporary intellectuals, a strange frenzy, a constant irritation, and an exasperating tension. (117)

I was shocked to encounter the following passage and yet the thought had also occurred to me:

In Germany, I began to study Buddhism in order not to be intoxicated or contaminated with Hitlerism. But my meditation on the void brought me to understand, by the contrast, Hitlerism better than did any ideological book. Immediate positivity and the terror of temporal decision, the total lack of transcendence of politics, but especially the bowing before the merciless empire of becoming, all these grow in a dictatorship to the point of exasperation. A suffocating rhythm, alternating with a megalomaniacal breath, gives it a particular psychology. The profile of dictatorship is a monumental chiaroscuro. (233-34)

Nature, ‘red in tooth and claw,’ and the inevitable void: a fertile dialectic, from which we may hope Life with prevail.


[1] [9] E.g. Cioran observes that fears surrounding Hungary’s ambition to reconquer Transylvania from Romania only existed due to Romania’s own internal political weakness: “[There is an] unacceptable illusion among us according to which foreign relations could compensate for an internal deficiency, whereas in fact the value of these relations depends, at bottom, on our inner strength” (171). A classic Hitlerian point.

[2] [10] Elsewhere, Cioran denounces, in the name of a lucid Realpolitik, overdependence on the unreliable alliance with France and sympathy for the “Latin sister nation” Italy, which was then supporting Hungary: “Concerning affinities of blood and race, who knows how many illusions are not hidden in such beliefs?” (172). Certainly, people have often confused linguistic proximity with actual blood kinship.


Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: https://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: https://www.counter-currents.com/2019/03/between-buddha-and-fuhrer/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: https://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Cioran_Reichsausländer_01.jpg

[2] [1]: #_ftn1

[3] ode to the Captain: https://www.counter-currents.com/2016/10/ode-to-the-captain/

[4] Fascist Italy: https://www.counter-currents.com/2019/01/italy-mussolini-fascism/

[5] eugenics movement in interwar Romania: https://www.upress.pitt.edu/books/9780822961260/

[6] [2]: #_ftn2

[7] conversion note : https://www.counter-currents.com/2019/02/ciorans-on-france/

[8] eerie overlap: https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/8cv6cf/the_map_of_the_austrohungarian_empire_18671918/

[9] [1]: #_ftnref1

[10] [2]: #_ftnref2

lundi, 18 février 2019

Cioran’s On France: Thriving Amidst Decay


Cioran’s On France: Thriving Amidst Decay

Emil Cioran
De la France 
Paris: L’Herne, 2015

This is a strange, vile little book as only Emil Cioran [2] knew how to produce. It was only recently published, in both the original Romanian and in French translation,[1] [3] having been written in 1941 and left to languish for decades in some cardboard box in the Cioran archives. Cioran wrote the book in the wake of France’s pathetic defeat in 1940, inspired by his conversations in Parisian cafés and his bicycling through the villages of the French countryside. Contemporary political events are quite understated, however. For Cioran, there is no question of engaging in puerile journalism; in his view, France’s decay was many centuries in the making.

I first read the book some time ago and remembered nothing except a feeling of revulsion. I recently reread it, this time taking notes. As so often with Cioran, when I gather my notes, my initial revulsion gives way as I see the bigger picture and glimmers of hope, and the work ends up being strangely endearing to me.

I don’t know if the author ever meant for the text, which was written in pencil, to be published at all, let alone in its current form. It seems likely it was written in a few inspired bursts of Cioran’s brilliant and morbid Muse. It is a conversion note. Before 1941, Cioran thought in German, had wished he could have been German, and wrote in Romanian, oscillating between despair and the mad hope that a new barbarism could save Romania from irrelevance and Europe from decadence. After 1945, Cioran had settled into his Parisian home and would henceforth write exclusively in French, as a “lucid” aesthete of nihilism and decline.

Why would someone want such an intellectual destiny for oneself? On France explains it. This is a prolonged meditation upon France, her greatness, vanity, and decay, a book-long portrait of the past glories and the steady and pathetic decline of a great nation. Cioran has in fact fallen in love with his adoptive land; it is indeed a love letter. His prose is often overwritten, but quite insightful: “I perceive France rightly by all that is rotten within me” (40). France is decadent, lifeless, and over-intellectual, just like himself. The book opens with an apt anonymous quotation in French: “Collection d’exagérations maladives” (a collection of sickly/obsessive exaggerations). Rest assured there is a point to all of this, if one bears with it.

ecfrance.jpgCioran, like Nietzsche, writes with a kind of visceral identification with human history and the evolution of our consciousness as recorded in our literature and philosophy. For Cioran, how could one live without being part of a great nation? For him, a nation is a social, linguistic, and ethnic reality culminating in a shared psychic reality; a great nation is an agent influencing the course of human history, rather than a collection of individuals. A nation is a kind of conversation, a shared mind, extending across the centuries; at the same time, nations are equally mortal and artificial creations. Hence for Cioran, “France,” “Germany,” and “Romania” are entities which are at once conventional and whose potentialities and defects are intimately felt, about which the stakes could not be higher.

Cioran’s actual observations on France can be stereotypical or overwritten, but they are often on point and insightful. France had been the quintessential nation, a historical agent like no other, “a nation afflicted with good fortune” (28), which had known a stable and “regular” development (unlike the stagnation of the Balkans, or the erratic history of Germany and Russia). France was a nation which had never been “humiliated by comparisons,” whose people had never felt themselves to be “deracinated” by foreign influences, who had never felt the material or psychological need to emigrate (27). France was a world unto itself, psychologically self-sufficient, and in that sense strangely provincial, at the same time setting the tone for the entire world: “France – like ancient Greece – has been a universal province” (24). The nation could happily develop at her own, leisurely pace, for she was the world.

In this sense, all of Europe, and indeed much of the world, existed in France’s shadow. For all those formless populaces which wanted to be nations, France set the tone for what was “normal.” France had been the “soul of Europe,” a cultural and even political hegemon. Cioran delights in the decline of the “Grande Nation”: “From the Frenchmen of the Crusades, they have become the Frenchmen of the kitchen and the bistrot: bien-être and boredom” (53).

I recently had reason to observe that I don’t know what it is like to have been born in a second-rate or failed nation. France’s (and the West’s) standard-setting “normality” is in fact highly exceptional [4].

By the time of the Enlightenment, French confidence was also grounded in a belief in reason and progress. This was an “acosmic” culture not troubled by the sublimity and dread of metaphysics, too comfortable in reason, a formal classicism, and an “anti-Dionysian” (80) culture of the head, not of the heart,[2] [5] and committed to the “sterile perfection” of writing (24). It became the nation of self-satisfied Alexandrianism.

All that was over and done with. In the late Middle Ages, France had wavered “between the monastery and the salon” (17), before decisively opting for the latter. The French, since the Enlightenment and in particular during the Revolution, were a perfect example of the weakness of “reason” as a guide for a people. France had degenerated from a nation into a mere populace of selfish individualists, hence sterile, and long given to chatter, overrefinement, and gastronomy (one appreciates the overgeneralizations here). The French gave no place to the unconscious, they were not “deep,” and they had become skeptical and unwilling to die for any ideal (38). Because at this time Cioran seems to only have cared for intensity of feeling and belief, he sees the only remaining vitality left in France in Communism and the working class, although her “revolutionary career” was probably over, anyway (73; hence also some Slavophile sentiments, since Cioran never really distinguished between Russians and Communism, 41).

visuel-cioran.jpgCioran, a voracious reader with a vast intellectual culture, is extremely critical of French thought and culture throughout history. Cioran foresees a great convergence: France’s bourgeois decadence indicates where all the other nations are heading, and by that decadence she will also really become a “normal” country, as afflicted by doubt and inferiority complexes as all the rest (45, 49). Cioran writes implausibly, “Her decline, obvious for almost a century, has not been opposed by any of her sons with a desperate protest” (63).

By this point, one could fairly accuse the wretch Cioran of sadism. Some kids like to tear the wings off of flies, others just like to watch a once-beautiful flower slowly rot from blight.

Cioran has perhaps only one unambiguously positive thing to say about France, the embrace of fleeting beauty:

France’s divinity: Taste. Good taste.

According to which the world – to exist – must please; must be well-made; consolidate itself aesthetically; have limits; be a graspable enchantment; a sweet flowering [fleurissment] of finitude. (14-15)

He observes that France is “the country of the phenomenon in itself,” of impression, before adding, “If appearances are everything, France is right” (78). Very Zen and very true, no? If life is but a succession of fleeting moments, let them be beautiful.

Cioran luxuriates in France’s decay, and some of the passages are frankly revolting in embellishing – as Alain Soral has complained [6] – spiritual and civilizational rot:

[France] can only live up to [her past] if she accepts her end with style, by masterfully refining a crepuscular culture, by extinguishing herself with intelligence and even with splendor – not without corrupting the freshness of her neighbors or of the world through her decadent infiltrations and dangerous insinuations. (47-48)

There are fecund disintegrations and sterile ones. A great civilization which provincializes itself diminishes its spiritual volume; but, when it spreads the elements of its dissolution, when it universalizes its failure, the twilight retains some symbols of the mind and saves the appearance of nobility. (75)

He also writes, “Of France’s twilight we can only speak in aesthetic terms; we do not feel it, and the French do not feel it either” (59). Well, perhaps a metic could feel this way, but not a Frenchman raised in the knowledge that his country was a great nation among the lights of the world, passed down to us as a sacred patrimony by the sacrifice of millions of French soldiers and peasants. Let us recall Charles de Gaulle’s famous words:

All my life, I have had a certain idea of France. I am inspired in this as much by sentiment as by reason. . . . I instinctively have the impression that Providence has created her for consummate achievements or exemplary misfortunes. If mediocrity marks her deeds and actions, however, I have the feeling of an absurd anomaly, attributable to the faults of the French and not to the genius of the fatherland. But also, the positive side of my mind convinces me that France is only truly herself when she is at the first rank; that only vast enterprises can compensate for the ferments of dispersion which her people carries; that our country, as it is, among the others, as they are us, must, under penalty of death, aim high and stand tall. In short, by my lights, France cannot be France without greatness.

Let it be said that Charles de Gaulle, for all his failures [7], passed this conviction on to the more earnest and impressionable minds of the younger generation through this myth – those who only-too-naïvely took their elders’ words at face value, and who could therefore only be shocked by the nation’s decomposition and slouching into mediocrity. And are de Gaulle’s words not also true, to a great extent, for Europeans in general, who always yearn to dedicate themselves heart and soul to a great cause, without which they are prone to living like dogs? And I cannot tell you how many idealistic young Europeans I have met, who are among the best of our race, who dedicate themselves to the Third World, for there can still be found struggle, sacrifice, and emotional depth and intensity, which can only contrast with the superficiality and barrenness – a rare spiritual oblivion – of coddled life in the post-war West.

I can see a point in Cioran’s musing, but there is also something disgusting – and in some respects simply noxious – for both France and Europe. Cioran, in fact, seems torn: generally favoring belief and fanaticism as the antithesis of decadence (hence sympathy for Hitlerism and Bolshevism), but occasionally observing that perhaps Europe needs a bit of doubt, which France could bring (65).

Cioran is convinced of the catastrophic effects of the illusions of “reason” and “progress.” But if France, the pioneer-nation of the Enlightenment, would cease to believe in such follies . . . surely Western man could finally awaken from these self-satisfied, sterilizing slogans! Or, at least, Cioran believes he, as an “intellectual vampire” (60), could be a lucid and fecund writer in this context. He leapfrogs centuries of history:

Hailing from primitive lands, the Wallachian underworld, with the pessimism of youth, and then arriving in an overly ripe civilization, what a source of shivers before such a contrast! Without a past amidst an enormous past . . . From the pasture to the salon, from the shepherd to Alcibiades! (66)

Hence, Cioran loves France because she has fallen from self-assured greatness into a doubt and pessimism much like his own. Whereas he had previously loved Hitlerian Germany for its irrational faith, he now presents France as a mirror image of himself, an entire nihilist country in which he might be able to achieve the highest lucidity:

An entire country which no longer believes in anything, what an exalting and degrading spectacle! To hear them, from the lowest of citizens to the most lucid, say the obvious with detachment: “La France n’exist plus,” “Nous sommes finis,” “Nous n’avons plus d’avenir, “Nous sommes un pays en décadence,” what a reinvigorating lesson, when you are no longer a devotee of delusions! (69)

ciorantala.jpgFrance is “a consoling space” for Cioran: “With what impatience I have awaited this outcome, so fertile for melancholic inspiration!” (70). The wandering and soon-to-be stateless Cioran wants to limit himself to a particular culture and place: “He who embraces too much falsifies the world, but in the first instance, himself . . . A great soul enclosed in the French forms, what a fecund type of humanity!” (87). France’s comfortable decadence will shield Cioran from his own excesses: “Let her measure cure us of pathetic and fatal wanderings” (32), “A country’s lack of life will protect us against the dangers of life” (88). Crepuscular France will finally give Cioran the opportunity to be in harmony with his time: “Alexandrianism is erudite debauchery as a system, theoretical breathing at the twilight, a moaning of concepts – and the only moment when the soul can harmonize its darkness with the objective unfolding of the culture” (70).

In short, Cioran seizes the opportunity to join a decadent, highly intellectual nation, so as to explore the depths of nihilism and see where one emerges. I can appreciate this kind of personal and philosophical project.

Cioran carves a role out for himself as a fertilizing maggot in the corpse of French civilization. Cioran, not disinterestedly, affirms that the greatness of a nation can be measured by its ability to inspire metics to join and serve it, which I suppose is partly true (92-94). Cioran then foresees his own destiny in this new home:

What would I do if I were French? I would rest in Cynicism. (40)

France needs a pathetic and cynical Paul Valéry, an absolute artist of the void and of lucidity. (48)

My destiny is to wrap myself in the dregs of civilizations. How can I show my strength except by resisting in the midst of rot? The relationship between barbarism and neurasthenia balances this formula. An aesthete of the twilight of cultures, I turn my gaze of storm and dreams upon the dead waters of the mind . . . (65)

To refuse to go extinct, even though we have delighted in the inevitable march towards extinction. (82)

A kind of moribund fury lies in the aesthetes of decadence. (84)

Cioran affirms that decadence can only be overcome, not through sentimental nostalgia or insincere conservatism, but by uncompromisingly going deeper . . . perhaps then nihilism will be transcended? That which is falling ought to be pushed, that which doesn’t kill us, and so on.

On France seems to be a book-long philosophical exercise. There are well-established traditions in this kind of morbid meditation in both Stoicism and Buddhism, schools which strongly resonated with Cioran. In Stoic analysis, one breaks down an object to its most essential, unappetizing forms so as to overcome our desires with objectivity. As Marcus Aurelius wrote in his Meditations:

When you have savories and fine dishes set before you, you will gain an idea of their nature if you tell yourself that this is the corpse of a fish, and that the corpse of a bird or a pig; or again, that fine Falernian wine is merely grape juice, and this purple robe some sheep’s wool dipped in the blood of a shellfish; and as for sexual intercourse, it is the friction of a piece of gut and, following a sort of convulsion, the expulsion of some mucus. Thoughts such as these reach through to the things themselves and strike to the heart of them, allowing us to see them as they truly are. So follow this practice throughout your life, and where things seem most worthy of your approval, lay them naked, and see how cheap they are, and strip them of the pretenses of which they are so vain. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.13)

The Buddhists attribute a similar meditative exercise to Gautama: contemplating the various aspects of our being (mind, body, actions, including defecation and urination), breaking down our body into parts, and indeed contemplating our body subject to various degrees of decomposition (notably in the Satipatṭhāna Sutta). By this, one attains a certain objectivity and imperviousness, one is learning to look the truth in the face without flinching.

On France appears to be the fruit of this kind of philosophical exercise. By stripping France of her pretensions and even the usual dignities necessary for a nation or an individual’s self-respect, Cioran sees his new home objectively. This is indeed one of Cioran’s “nay-saying, corrosive books,” a challenge, the overcoming of which will make us stronger.

In the 1920s and ’30s, no one denied the decadence which already afflicted the France of the Third Republic. No one today can deny that all Europe is decadent, unashamed of her impotence and dedicated to the most impoverished materialist and humanitarian principles, consecrated to the Last Man foreseen by Nietzsche, and with no end in sight. Given all this, Cioran’s observations and his challenge remain deeply relevant to us. Cioran is torn, but points to the need for decidedly modern barbarians: “I dream of a culture of oracles in logic, of lucid Pythias . . . and of a man who would control his reflexes with a supplement of life, and not through austerity” (89).

En guise de conclusion, I recall the words of the Buddha:

Just as a sweet-smelling and pleasant lotus grows on a heap of refuse flung on the high road, so a disciple of the Fully Awakened One shines resplendent in wisdom among the blind multitude, the refuse of beings. (Dhammapada, 58-59)

Some translated excerpts from this book will be published at Counter-Currents in the coming days.


[1] [8] The French edition is incidentally quite elegant and has been printed using blue ink.

[2] [9] Cioran often writes of nations having or lacking vigor “in the blood,” using this word strangely more in a psychological than hereditarian sense.


Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: https://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: https://www.counter-currents.com/2019/02/ciorans-on-france/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: https://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/2-11-19-1.jpg

[2] Emil Cioran: https://www.counter-currents.com/2019/01/cioran-germany-hitler/

[3] [1]: #_ftn1

[4] standard-setting “normality” is in fact highly exceptional: http://www.unz.com/gdurocher/the-convergence-hoax/

[5] [2]: #_ftn2

[6] Alain Soral has complained: https://www.counter-currents.com/2019/01/cioran-aesthete-of-despair/

[7] his failures: http://www.counter-currents.com/2016/04/de-gaulles-failure/

[8] [1]: #_ftnref1

[9] [2]: #_ftnref2

09:54 Publié dans Philosophie | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0) | Tags : cioran, emil cioran, philosophie, roumanie, france | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

mercredi, 30 janvier 2019

Cioran, Germany, & Hitler


Cioran, Germany, & Hitler

Translated by Guillaume Durocher

Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com

Translator’s Note: The following are excerpts from the preface to a collection of early articles by Emil Cioran translated from Romanian into French. I found this very interesting concerning the young Cioran’s embrace of fascism as embodying the “barbarism” he considered necessary to halt decadence. I have broken up some of the paragraphs. The title is editorial, and the footnotes are my own. Source: Emil Cioran, Apologie de la barbarie: Berlin-Bucharest (1932-1941) (Paris: L’Herne, 2015), pp. 11-19.

Why shouldn’t we rejoice when the flames of our will to sacrifice triumph over our sorrows, our illnesses, and our insignificant resignations? Renunciations, yes, but not resignations. He who renounces has too much to give, whereas he who resigns himself cannot even receive. – Emil Cioran, Vremea,[1] [2] January 14, 1934

Long before adopting French as his exclusive means of literary creation, it was first through German that the young Emil Cioran (1911-1995) gradually crossed the cultural boundaries of his country of origin. Born as a subject of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the region of Transylvania, which was inhabited by many Saxons, he early on became familiar with this language which, from the age of fourteen, opened the doors to poetry and philosophical thought.

Some springs later, when he published his first pieces in the Romanian press, it was easy to feel the presence of German: in truth, it was then Cioran’s second language, almost a mother tongue, a language which conveyed an entire mental universe from which the future essayist would soon draw his inspiration, if not his identity. In 1928, shortly after having obtained his high school diploma, he left the city of Sibiu and registered at the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy of Bucharest: the capital, which was nicknamed “the little Paris of the Balkans,” was in those days resolutely turned towards France . . .

From this point of view, the cultural baggage of a Mihail Sebastian[2] [3] or a Eugène Ionesco[3] [4] – francophile spirits, if there ever were any! – was much more representative of the young Bucharest intelligentsia of the day than was Cioran’s . . . A discrepancy saturated with momentous issues and which has perhaps not been sufficiently emphasized.

Through the selection of articles presented in this volume, we have sought, on the basis of authentic documents, to reconstitute the young Cioran’s intellectual journey grappling with his pre-war Germanophilia. By reading them, one perceives better that a certain Germany – Romantic, then vitalist and irrationalist – was, in his eyes, able to be the counterpoint to the irrelevance of a France which to him was obsolete, as well as to the structural deficiencies of his country and the atrophy of a world in which the exercise of the mind is no longer, in short, compatible with Life. This Romanian was already well-versed in the art of the pamphlet and had only the harshest words, for pages on end, to excoriate the West’s decline. . . .

It goes without saying that Cioran’s stay in the Reich (autumn 1933-autumn 1935) constitutes a particular – and eminently crucial – episode in his biography. Whereas a few months earlier he still displayed a frank contempt for all forms of political engagement (“that immense filth,” he said), the philosophy student would nourish himself, as soon he arrived in Berlin, with a genuine passion for the “new Germany” – the effectiveness of the Gleichschaltung, the people’s frenzy, and especially the Führer’s charisma.

cioran-velo-nice.jpgFrom this period until his definitive move to France (1941), Cioran would constantly ideologize his discourse, fight against pacifism as well as skepticism, and promote the fanaticization of the masses and the resort to violence in order to destroy critical thought – convinced of having discovered in Hitlerism a model dictatorship to be urgently imported into his own country. He also sought – with force, lyricism, and aggressiveness – to put before his compatriots the following choice: a mission or despair; the birth of a history or rotting in time’s ash-heap; the transfiguring leap or death . . . He wrote in the February 4, 1934 columns of Vremea:

For my part, Romania remains of interest only insofar as it can succeed in becoming another Romania, insofar as speaking of another Romania is meaningful. Because, for my part, I refuse to patch a torn-up shirt back together, nor do I want to let myself be dissolved in a rot for which I am not responsible. Then, how can we not admire Germany’s self-asserting will, ready to fight the entire world, brandishing untenable ideas and unfounded aspirations, which are due to a vitality and a pride whose intensity eliminates caricatural ridiculousness, confronts the absurd, and nourishes itself against many mistakes which our insipid lucidity avoids because of a shameful prudence?

Simply said: there was, with Cioran, a before and an after Germany – a before and after 1933. How could his future rapprochement with the Iron Guard have been possible without his stay in Berlin and then in Munich, without this fateful stay during which he discovered the powerful aspirations of “great politics”? All the more in that there remained abyssal differences between Legionary doctrine and the theorist Cioran’s prescriptions (without speaking of those distinguishing Hitlerists from the Guard).

This is shown by his cursed book, The Transfiguration of Romania, published in 1936 . . . In this work, Cioran tries to confront his ideas concerning the philosophy of culture and of history with the concrete case of Romania, in order to establish the foundations for an explicitly nationalist project. If Codreanu’s disciples could legitimately appropriate some of his positions (notably on minorities and foreigners, and on the need to liquidate Romanian democracy and replace it with a far-Right dictatorship), it seems likely that many other arguments, consciously critical of the Guard, must have provoked much incomprehension and perplexity among the “Greenshirts”: the marked praise of Bolshevism; the pages dedicated to the people’s material misery, and the lack of genuine reflection in the national debate on social injustices; the categorical rejection of Orthodoxy and “Romanianism” as identitarian foundations for the country to be born; and the modernist voluntarism which Cioran stubbornly praises – against “tradition,” the “village,” the figure of the “eternal peasant” – in favor of a massive industrialization of the very rural Romania of that time . . .

This Cioran, in short, has nothing reactionary about him: he abhors the passéisme affecting too many of his compatriots, just as he abhors the limp and prudent consensus of parliamentarism, a political institution which in his eyes is as ineffective as it is corrupt, as incapable of raising Romania’s “historic level” as of inspiring the appearance, from within it, of the heroes which it so urgently needs.

And he repeats to excess: in Romania, everything is still to be created, there are no precedents – but one must first make the effort to definitively forget this wonderful past which many local historians claimed existed and which was, in fact, nothing more than a painful fantasy whose harmfulness was manifest. Yes, this Cioran wants to be exclusively turned towards the future. And the future, for him, is Nazi Germany – the perfect cultural and political antithesis to the French spirit, towards which Cioran feels a certain sincere attachment, but which it would ultimately be in vain to still attribute any vitality.

For that matter, one of the great questions raised by this part of Cioran’s biography is no doubt the following: How to explain the suddenness with which the young student, put into contact with Hitlerism, let himself be convinced to put his incisive pen and his vast culture in the service not only of liberticidal, but essentially deadly causes? The question is all the more difficult in that we cannot satisfy ourselves with the argument of temporary folly. “I know for certain that I will never go mad,” he quite precisely wrote to Bucur Țincu[4] [5] in 1932. And, does one become mad simply by constantly calling for madness in one’s literary productions?

A thorny question, then, but on which the chronological reading of the articles which follow can bring valuable insights: an extreme anthropological pessimism; the observation of a generalized decadence in the West inspired by Spenglerian analyses; a rejection of the rationalist tradition stemming from the Enlightenment to the benefit of thought centered on the “soul,” the “vital,” and the “intuitive”; and the exacerbation of the fundamental antinomy between Kultur and Zivilisation, with a stark predilection for Kultur. Even before his departure for Berlin, Cioran’s texts draw, on the strictly cultural level, from a collection of values and assessments which are so many “spiritual” predispositions towards an effective politicization of his discourse.


That said, there is another easily observable phenomenon in these texts and which was, perhaps, more decisive still, that is to say: self-loathing. In the young Cioran, this takes on at least two forms: in the first instance, self-loathing as the representative of an organically deficient “small culture,” as a Romanian; then self-loathing as an intellectual. Constantly associated with the notions of fecundity and effectiveness, the aspiration towards a regenerative “barbarism” is for Cioran the only way to escape this double condition, which he considers sterile and humiliating.

The encounter with Hitlerism in the autumn of 1933 would serve as a catalyst in his mind: henceforth, to withdraw to inner life would no longer be acceptable; one needed to act, and act quickly – that is to say, politically. If this conversion was brutal, it is in fact because it answered a vital need, the inability to bear any longer the pressure of a wounded pride, mortified by Destiny.

Cioran’s frenzied enthusiasm was then proportional to the intensity of his despair. He no longer wanted to be lucid; he wanted to be alive – even if it meant, for that, renouncing everything, including his quality as a free, thinking man. He would bluntly write in Vremea:

Among all the values to which humanity has grown attached, none “wears out” as quickly as liberty. The feeling of inopportuneness becomes dramatic. Hence is born among intellectuals, in our time, a strange fury for submission, a need for blindness, delight in debasement. Nobody wants to be free anymore. And this is what is to be sought in the passion for the Right as much as for the Left.

Astounding statements, when one knows the outspokenness, the finesse, and the originality of the thinker which Cioran would become, a few years later, in the French language.


[1] [6] A Romanian newspaper, its name meaning Time.

[2] [7] A Romanian Jewish playwright, journalist, and novelist (1907-1945). He died in a traffic accident, not because of the persecution of European Jewry.

[3] [8] A Romanian playwright who, like Cioran, also lived in France and came to publish exclusively in the French language.

[4] [9] An essayist and literary historian who hailed from the same village as Cioran, Rășinari.


Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: https://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: https://www.counter-currents.com/2019/01/cioran-germany-hitler/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: https://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/1-29-19-2.jpg

[2] [1]: #_ftn1

[3] [2]: #_ftn2

[4] [3]: #_ftn3

[5] [4]: #_ftn4

[6] [1]: #_ftnref1

[7] [2]: #_ftnref2

[8] [3]: #_ftnref3

[9] [4]: #_ftnref4

00:05 Publié dans Histoire | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0) | Tags : histoire, roumanie, emil cioran, cioran | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

jeudi, 24 septembre 2015

Emil Cioran: Un siècle d'écrivains

Emil Cioran

Documentaire "Un siècle d'écrivains"

00:05 Publié dans Philosophie | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0) | Tags : cioran, emil cioran, france, roumanie, philosophie | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

lundi, 15 juin 2015

The Italian reception of Cioran


Interview with Renzo Rubinelli: the Italian reception of Cioran

My aim is to carry out an exegesis of Cioran’s thought so as to evince how the issue of time is the basis of all his meditations.  To Cioran, time is destiny. The curse of existence is that of being “incarcerated” in the linearity of time, which stems from a paradisiacal, pre-temporal past, toward a destiny of death and decay. It is a tragic worldview of Greek origin embedded  in a Judeo-Christian conception of time, though deprived of éscathon. But can we be sure that Cioran dismisses each and every form of salvation?

Renzo Rubinelli

In this interview, Italian philosopher Renzo Rubinelli shares with us some of his intuitions on the works and life of Emil Cioran. Profound connaisseur of Cioran’s thought (to which he dedicated his bachelor’s degree in Philosophy), having moreover met the Romanian-French author in person, Rubinelli talks about fundamental themes such as Cioran’s view of Time as Destiny, his philosophical passions and obsessions, besides his own wanderings and encounters with that who would be defined, by Time magazine, as the “king of pessimists”.

Renzo Rubinelli was born in Verona and graduated from the Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, in 1988, with a degree in Philosophy.  His undergraduate thesis, Tempo e destino nel pensiero di E. M. Cioran (“Time and destiny in E. M. Cioran’s thought”) was directed by Italian philosopher Emanuele Severino and was published by Italian publishing house Aracne, in 2014. Rubinelli has contributed to Nuova Italia Editrice, participated in several conferences on Cioran and published countless articles in academic and nonacademic reviews such as Il Sole 24 Ore, L’Arena di Verona, Il Giornale di Vicenza, Bresciaoggi, Il Gazzettino, Verona Fedele and the Romanian philosophical review Alkemie. Rubinelli also works as a manager for Retail e Profumeria and runs the Azienda agricola Rubinelli Vajol, specialized in the production of Amarone (a typical dry wine from the region of Valpolicella). He lives in Valpolicella, near Verona.

EMCioranBR: Mr. Rubinelli, first and foremost I would like to thank you for granting us this interview. It is a privilege for us to read about your rapports with Cioran his thought and works, the man himself… Our first question: how did you discover Cioran?

R.R.: First of all, I would like to thank you for this interview, Rodrigo. We have not personally met, but I must say I appreciate the effort you make out of pure passion, in favor of the promotion of Cioran’s thought in Brazil and worldwide. It is not a big deal, but since you ask I feel pressed to exhume some old memories. The first time I laid my eyes on a book by Cioran, thus getting to know of his existence, was at university, in San Sebastiano, Venice, in the great hall of the Institute of Philosophical Studies. It was 1986, I believe. A researcher, whose name was Moro, as far as I can remember, was coming down the stairs (he was giving a course on McLuhan), and he held a copy of Il demiurgo cattivo (The new gods, as translated by Richard Howard), which had recently been published by Adelphi. The title did not not actually appeal to me, and I must say that I found it strange for a McLuhan specialist to be interested in a book with such an old-fashioned title. Months later I asked Professor Severino about the possibility of undertaking, under his direction, a thesis about the subject of Destiny. He promptly accepted it and provided me with a list of authors: Rensi, Untersteiner, Spengler, Nietzsche. Then I came to read in a magazine an article on Squartamento (Drawn and quartered) written by Severino himself, and which contained the following quote from Mahabharata: “The knot of destiny cannot be untied. Nothing in this world is the result of our own acts”, claimed Cioran. “Here is my author”, I thought to myself. I thus suggested to dedicate my research to Cioran and the subject of Destiny, which Severino enthusiastically approved of. Thus began a journey of study and of life, which ended up leading me to meet the author himself, his Parisian and Romanian family, his homeland.

EMCioranBR: Could you tell us a little about the Italian reception of Cioran’s works? It is known that Cioran has many well-known readers in Italy, where his books are published, as you have mentioned, by Roberto Calasso’s Adelphi. Franco Volpi, for instance, was one of his readers. There is a comment in his book Il nichilismo (“Nihilism”) in which Volpi regards Cioran as the representative of a “gnostic fashion of nihilism”. Can it be said that there has been established in Italy a tradition of Cioran studies even though a recent one, since we are dealing with a rather up-to-date author? Who are the main Italian commentators of Cioran? What are the main works dedicated to his life and works ?

emil_cioran_sulla_francia.jpgR.R.: Cioran’s first book to be published in Italy was Squartamento (Drawn and quartered) launched by Adelphi in 1981, even though some other titles had already been published in the previous decade by right-wing publishing houses, even if they had not had much repercussion. It was precisely thanks to Adelphi, and to Ceronetti’s wonderful introduction, that the name of Cioran became well-known to the Italian readers. Roberto Calasso is a great cultural player, but he is a rather arrogant person and, I must say, ungallant as well. My encounters with Cioran and Severino, two giants of thought, allowed me to understand how the true greatness is always accompanied by genuine humbleness a gentleness. Virtues which Calasso, in my opinion, lacks and I say so based on the personal experience I have had with him in more than one occasion. Unfortunately, Volpi left us too early due to a banal accident while riding his bicycle on the Venetian hills (northeast of Italy), not far away from where I live. His intelligence illuminated us for a long a time. In 2002, he wrote a piece on Friedgard Thoma‘s book, Per nulla al mondo, releasing himself once and for all from the choir of censors, who had soon made their apparition. I enjoy recalling this marvellous passage: “Under the influence of passion, Cioran reveals himself. He jeopardizes everything in order to win the game, reveals innermost dimensions of his psyche, surprising features of his character… Attracted by the challenge of the eternal feminine, he allows secret depths of his thought to come to surface: a denuded thought before the feminine look which penetrates him…”
“Gnostic nihilism” is without a doubt an appropriate definition for Cioran. But what is “nihilism”, after all? The term suits Cioran first and foremost from a theoretical standpoint, as I shall explain later on. The emphasis should lie on the adjective “gnostic” more than anything else. The gnostic idea of Caduta nel tempo (The fall into time) feeds all of Cioran’s works from beginning to end, without exception.
There are in Italy many brave young minds who dedicate themselves to Cioran’s thought: Rotiroti, Carloni, Pozzi, Bulboaca, Vanini, Di Gennaro, Cicortas, Scapolo, Chelariu. Their works are all extremely valuable, but if you want to know my preferences, I would mention the works of Carloni, Rotiroti and Bulboaca.

EMCioranBR: You are the author of a book about Cioran: Tempo e destino nel pensiero di E. M. Cioran (Aracne Editrice, 2004). According to Mihaela-Genţiana Stănişor, it moves between Emanuele Severino’s eternity and Cioran’s nihilism. It holds a beautiful title which, by the way, seems to synthesize the essence of Cioran’s thought, besides echoing the title to one of Cioran’s own books, the collection of essays of his youth period published as Solitude et destin. What does existence mean to Cioran? What is Man according to him, and Man’s rapport with time? Would you say his is a tragic thought or rather a metaphysical nihilism?

cioran.jpgR.R.: My book undertakes a theoretical exegesis of Cioran’s thought so as to evince how the problem of Time is the basis for all his meditation. The connective “and” of the title becomes the supporting verb for the thesis I intend to sustain: Time is Destiny. The curse of existence is that of being “incarcerated” in the linearity of time, which stems from a paradisiacal, pre-temporal past, toward a destiny of death and decay. It is, to sum up, a tragic worldview of Greek origin embedded in a Judeo-Christian conception, though deprived of all éscathon. But can we be sure that Cioran dismisses each and every form of salvation? There are two polarities which communicate in my book: Severino’s absolute eternity and Cioran’s explicit nihilism. From Severino’s point of view, one might as well define Cioran’s thought as the becoming aware of nihilism inherent to the Western conception of Time. And in Cioran’s mystical temptation, on the other hand, one may find a sentimental perception of Being which seems to point to the need, the urge, the hope, so to speak, for an overcoming of Western hermeneutics of Becoming and for an ulterior word that is not Negation. The book starts with an account of my three encounters with Aurel, Cioran’s brother, in the years of 1987, 1991 and 1995, and of my two encounters with Emil, in 1988 and 1989. The book also includes all the letters which Cioran wrote to me, plus countless photographs. After the first part, there comes a bio-bibliographical inquiry on his Romanian years, a pioneer work of exhumation at a time when there were no reliable sources on the matter.

EMCioranBR: Cioran made friends with people from different nationalities. Could it be said that he was no less fascinated with Italy than he was with Spain? Leopardi, for example, is one of the poets he cherished most. What are your views on the elective affinities between Cioran and Italy?

R.R.: I would not go as far as to say that Cioran’s fascination with Italy equaled that which he held with Spain. Cioran loved Spain in a visceral way, while Italy did not interest him so much. Except for Leopardi, obviously, of whom he had framed and hung, on a wall in his apartment, the manuscript of the poem “L’infinito”. And he loved Venice as well…

EMCioranBr: You have personally met Cioran. Could you share your impressions on him? There seems to exist a certain myth Cioran: the depressive man, the suicidal, the enraged misanthropist, the solitary madman and God only knows what else… What was your impression of the actual man of flesh and blood? What could you say about the relation between the author and his works?

R.R.: I have always refuted the common-places, the clichés ascribed to the character of Cioran. None of that is true: misanthropist, madman, depressive, suicidal, furious, funambulist– all of which are intolerable words, tipically empty labels of badly written newspapers, which have been employed to the present day to describe Cioran. Reading his books, I have had the unmistakable feeling of an authentic gentleman, a man like you and me, who happened to have an exceptional gift, that is to say, the extraordinary ability to drive toward the Essential with a crystal-clear style. Thus, I wanted to meet him in person, with the feeling that he would be available and willing to receive me. And thus it happened. He was quite an easy-going man, comitted, someone who partook in other people’s miseries, great or small.
It all started in the summer of ’87. I wanted to visit the countries in Eastern Europe, those which were indeed oltrecortina. Almost no one would dare to go there. Before setting off to Romania I talked to Professor [Mario Andrea] Rigoni, Cioran’s translator and friend, asking him to tell Cioran about my travel plans and to ask whether he had any wishes concerning his family in Romania. I promptly received my mission assignment from Paris: to send his brother two kilos of coffee. Well, I spent three memorable days with Aurel, who introduced me to all the sights of their childhood and shared so many things with me. I also got to meet Constantin Noica, who even wrote me his own suggestions regarding my thesis on Cioran (one can find the two manuscript pages in my book). Then, months later, I showed Cioran the photographs of all those places from his childhood, and we looked at them together in his mansard on Rue de l’Odéon. Simone Boué and Friedgard Thoma were also there. Cioran’s reactions before the images were explosive: he became euphoric, thrilled as a child, even ecstatic, I must say. That was a delightful afternoon. But he seemed different in the next meeting. It was summer, Simone was in Dieppe and Cioran was in Paris all by himself. I wanted to introduce them to a friend of mine who had recently sustained a thesis on his thought, it was a historical-political approach: I meccanismi dell’utopia in E. M. Cioran (“The mechanisms of utopia in E. M. Cioran”). Evidently, he became interested, otherwise he would not have invited my friend. Cioran even wrote him a beautiful letter, which proved that he was indeed interested. He then received us and served us some delicious sandwiches which he had provided especially for us. He seemed more fatigued and aged than in the previous encounter. The heat of July and the absence of his companion made the atmosphere less lively than in the first time. This time the conversation was held in German and my girlfriend would translate everything.

EMCioranBR: In Brazil, Cioran is not studied at universities so much. The Philosophy departments seem rather aloof when it comes to the inclusion of his thought as an object of study, probably due to the non-traditional, hybrid, marginal character of his works (halfway between philosophical and literary discourses). As if his works held no philosophical relevance, no value at all in terms of philosophical reflection. Would you say the same goes in Italy?

R.R.: “Cioran is a philosopher who refutes philosophy”, that’s what I affirm energetically in my book, in harmony with that which Constantin Noica (whom I met in Paltiniş, in 1987) had wrote in a letter to me. Indeed, it is impossible to understand Cioran not having in mind the problem of Time, and that is a philosophical concept par excellence. All these aspects that I only mention here are explained thouroughly in my book.

EMCioranBR: Do you have a favorite book by Cioran, or more than one? Any favorite aphorisms as well, or maybe any that comes to mind?

R. R.: My favorite book is without a doubt the Quaderni 1957-1972 (Notebooks). Secondly, I would say it’s  L’inconveniente di essere nati (The temptation to exist), and, thirdly, La caduta nel tempo (The fall into time). But I also find the others just as beautiful, in such a way that it is impossible to get sick with reading them. My favorite aphorism remains the one with which, it has been 27 years, I finished my thesis, and which is contained in Drawn and quartered. This is the one:

Abruptly, a need to testify to the recognition not only of beings but of objects, to a stone because it is a stone… How alive everything becomes! As if for eternity. Suddenly, nonexistence seems inconceivable. That such impulses appear, can appear, shows that the last word may not reside in Negation.

EMCioranBR: Why read Cioran?

R.R.: Cioran is a school of synthesis, of limpidity, of sobriety, of autheticity, of essentiality. But also to feel the proximity of a friend, of someone like us, sincere and endowed with the great gift of irony. With Cioran one can laugh tastefully, especially while reading his Notebooks.

EMCioranBR: Mr. Rubinelli, I once again thank you for granting us such an enriching interview. I hope and wish that the exchanges between Italy and Brazil may be deeepened in the future. Any closing words?

R.R.: To finish, I would like to quote two aphorisms which are close to one another in Cioran’s Notebooks:

25 [December 1965]. Christmas. Happiness as I conceive it: to stroll in the fields, to do nothing but admire, to consume myself in pure perception.

And a little before:

“To lose oneself in God” – I do not know of any expression more beautiful than that.

samedi, 13 décembre 2014

Cioran, le mystique des Carpathes


Cioran, le mystique des Carpathes
par Jean-François Gauthier
La sécheresse et l'inexactitude du bois qui brûle. Ainsi pourrait-on qualifier la manière d'Emil Cioran, dont l'édition des Œuvres (Gallimard, coll. Quarto, 1995) rappelle opportunément qu'il fut, avec Beckett et Valéry, l'un des plus flamboyants stylistes de la langue française au XXe siècle, et, avec Maurice Blanchot, l'un des plus solitaires, tant dans sa vie personnelle que dans celle des Lettres. Les solitaires attirent par une fascination de couleuvre, le premier des pièges qu'ils tendent à leur lecteur, et qui fait croire en une force. Mais, moins qu'un héros, Cioran fut plus fragile que quiconque dans son fanatisme de l'inessentiel. De cette fragilité même il a fait vertu : quand il emmène vers la plongée des vertiges qu'il sait, comme nul autre, construire à la croisée de toutes les précarités, c'est pour laisser à quiconque attend de le suivre et pour répudier toute vérité autre que l'expérience même de ce vertige.
Né en 1911 d'un père prêtre orthodoxe, puis collégien en Transylvanie, étudiant à Bucarest, diplômé de philosophie avec un mémoire sur Bergson, Cioran entame son œuvre d'écrivain à 21 an, en roumain, avec Sur les cimes du désespoir. Reliquat romantique que cette évocation des cimes, mais une entrée fracassée dans l'expérience de l'écriture ; en-deçà de la philosophie et du jeu des concepts, il éprouve que seule l'esthétique peut imposer la perception des plus fortes contradictions de l'existence, dont cette première : « Le monde aurait dû être n'importe quoi, sauf ce qu'il est ». Le désespoir, qu'il cultive une seconde fois en roumain avec Le livre des Leurres (1936), ne se confond pas chez lui avec l'imbécillité diététique d'une déficience telle que le malheur, cette sorte de théâtre prolongé en aspiration fidéiste, avec, en revers, une promesse de bonheur du monde, dégoûtée ou non, acceptée ou refusée, affirmée ou niée. Cioran agit d'emblée le désespoir en son acception la plus exacte, l'acte de ne pas espérer. Si le monde n'est, en nous, qu'image, celle fabriquée par une chimie organique où la sensibilité a sa part, force est de constater que l'espérance et son contraire, avec leurs métaphysiques calculées, ne résultent elles-mêmes que d'une imagination déviée de sa course. Plus que sens ou non-sens, être ou non-être, la vie en son pressentiment le plus intime relève de son acte propre. Lui donner sens ou non-sens a priori serait lui refuser de se bâtir elle-même, la contraindre dans l'écheveau de significations préalables où s'instille sa perte.
ciorancimes-du-desespoir_1678.jpegPar son renoncement hypnotique à l'égard de tout ce qui séduit l'intellect ou la sensibilité, et par la forme artistique — qui seul subsiste de son aventure, personnelle, corporelle, et comme hallucinée — donnée à un détachement durement conquis et sans cesse remis à plat dans ses représentations, Cioran est entré de plain-pied dans la catégorie des inactuels. II a couru le risque de se statufier vivant, au plus près de l'extrême, d'une inacceptable conciliation avec ses propres vérités. Des larmes et des saints (1938) puis Le Crépuscule des pensées (1940) réinvestissent le paradoxe des deux premiers livres, et l'écrivain y côtoie les tentations du narcissisme. « Le monde est un non-lieu universel », écrit-il. Est-ce si assuré ? Ce monde, en effet, y réclame son lieu d'aventure, il y charge sa propre quête. Le Bréviaire des vaincus, écrit en roumain à Paris entre 1941 et 1944, publié en français quarante ans plus tard, comprend le risque du faux-pas : « Ma faute : j'ai détroussé le réel. J'ai mordu dans toutes les pommes des espérances humaines (...). Dévoré par le péché de nouveauté, j'aurais bien retourné le ciel comme un gant ». Cioran perçoit combien le comble du rien exige une présence, ou alors, il n'est plus D'où cette prudente résolution du Bréviaire : « Entre l'âme du vide et le cœur du néant ! ».
Difficile tactique à l'égard de soi-même sur le chemin du dépouillement : Cioran délaisse sa langue maternelle et entreprend d'écrire en français. Il s'y invente l'obligation d'un ramassement, la multiplication de raccourcis dont la fascination exercée sur le lecteur tient à sa manière rigoureuse de refuser ce qu'elle affirme, d'acquiescer à ce qu'elle manque et de se déprendre de ce qu'elle vise. La vie comme coup du sort, l'inaptitude de la volonté, un regard morgue sur les leurres du bonheur et du malheur, tous les thèmes d'un stoïcisme dépouillé des revendications de l'imposture, Cioran va les pousser comme des fleurs d'opium rejetées vers l'avant d'une écriture sobre, sans fin révoquée dans sa tentation d'avoir sais ou possédé, ou fixé une illumination. De la vieille maxime d’Épictète conseillant à la raison triomphante d'en rabattre dans ses prétentions et de mieux distinguer ce qui dépend de nous et ce qui n'en dépend pas, il retiendra la seconde injonction, qui lui fait plier toute son énergie à se convaincre que rien ne dépend de lui, sauf l'illusion de ne dépendre de rien. Emil Cioran, ou le maximalisme de l'infortune.
Comment se donner matière à vivre ? Le Précis de décomposition, premier livre écrit en français, publié en 1949, fixe quelques règles : se défaire de l'histoire, des vérités, des doutes, pratiquer l'envers des choses, l'ironie, la distance habitée, ne pas se venger du néant en l'érigeant en loi et conserver, par la-dessus, la politesse de vivre malgré un dénouement « prévu, effroyable et vain ». Rien, évidemment, dans tout cela, qui rassurerait une troupe sociale, ardente au salut du monde ou au bonheur des hommes. De ce versant antipolitique de son œuvre, Cioran n'a cure ; ou plutôt est-ce là son souci constant, de se défaire d'un tel souci  Réduit à une logique, le Précis montrerait une addition d'impasses et de contradictions ; mais lu dans son mouvement même, haché, désarchitecturé, il déploie une expérience mystique provocante qui tente de maintenir l'acte de vivre en-deçà de toutes les consolations que lui proposent les arts ou les croyances. La vie commune en société s'ébroue certes à l'inverse et fabrique toutes sortes d'idées propres à rassurer. Au jugement de Cioran, elle a tort. À refuser l'insatisfaction, on trouve facilement matière à croire ; mais à croire en quoi que ce soit, on se défausse de l'immédiateté de la vie, on masque la brutalité de ce qui n'est jamais advenu : soi-même, pour l'endiguer dans l'erreur et retourner vers l'ennui. Contre la seule ligne de la logique, étouffante de certitudes toujours contredites par l'expérience, la cohérence de la sagesse impose d'autres dimensions d'examen : il faut qu'en chaque acte ou pensée soit impliquée la totalité de ce qu'ils accomplissent, et surtout, négativement, la globalité de ce qu'ils manquent, de ce qui reste hors de portée. De là cette écriture si particulière à Cioran, où concourent tous les moyens de la rhétorique : l'affirmation  brève, le syllogisme détourné, la harangue, le précepte, la citation qui cheville sans démontrer, la négation des vérités ordinaires, le retournement des croyances religieuses, l'aménagement des contraires, l'exaltation des contradictoires. Ce mouvement toujours tremblé emmène de l'intellect au sensible, puis du sensible à l'intellect, dessinant un abîme entre ce que la raison dévoie de l'expérience en se faisant maxime, et ce que l'expérience ignore d'elle­ même en échouant à instituer la raison de ses raisons. Ce qui est à saisir, la ponctualité instantanée de l'existence, cela échappe au langage, mais dans le mouvement même où l'instant qui passe ourdit l'impératif de s'exprimer, auquel on n'échappe pas. Autant dire que ce qui fait vivre est « au-delà de tout, au-delà de l'être lui-même », selon la leçon de Grégoire de Nazianze. S'il n'en a pas gardé le Dieu, Cioran a conservé de son éducation orthodoxe un dépôt sensible, une part de théologie négative qui exacerbe chez lui la désignation de ce qui cause l'étrange agitation d'exister : l'impossible clôture de soi sur soi, de soi sur le monde, du monde sur lui-même. De quoi se déduit la seule vérité possible : que toute vérité, toute espérance, toute croyance relèvent d'une imposture comparable à celle d'un tranquillisant pharmaceutique ; le seul apprentissage possible du monde et de la vie, de l'existence même et de son sens, se passe de toute érudition, qu'elle soit biologique, philosophique ou littéraire ; c'est "un savoir sans connaissances" qui nous met en présence permanente de notre radicale destructibilité, laquelle contredit l'indestructible envie de vivre que promènent tous ceux qui ne se suicident pas.
C'est le privilège des poètes de s'adosser ainsi à l'incompréhensible pour relancer sans cesse, en travers de leur propre route, le défi de ne pas s'y perdre, et celui d'y faire apparaître une clairière, fût-ce pour l'embraser aussitôt d'un feu dévastateur. Cioran ne s'est senti chez lui ni dans sa société, ni dans la culture usuelle. À Maistre et à l'Hindouisme, à Chestov, aux moralistes français, à Pascal et à Nietzsche, à tous ceux qui, éconduits de la mémoire ordinaire, ne furent pas tenus par l'époque pour des maîtres à méditer, il demanda  des conseils pour vivre un peu. Il a brandi avec une sérénité intransigeante non point l'orgueil d’être soi-même dans une société morte, ni l'exaspération, jusqu'au tournis, de la fascination du vide, mais la simple revendication d'échouer dans la rédaction  de tout dernier mot possible. Autant dire que sa seule loi fut de n'en avoir jamais fini avec la répudiation du verbe, avec les facilités tressées par toute société entre tout homme et l'illusion balkanique d'avoir raison devant l'histoire, face à un salut dévitalisé qui n'existe jamais.
L'ambiguïté de l’œuvre de Cioran, affinée dans les volumes ultérieurs, des Syllogismes de l'amertume (1952) aux Aveux et anathèmes (1987) en passant par De l'inconvénient d'être né (1973), tient à son contenu même, à son obstination souterraine au tête-à-tête renversé en exercice de métaphysique. S'il se fait moraliste, c'est pour soustraire l'étude des mœurs à la tentation des psychologues dont la science éteint les ténèbres et l'amertume qui tourmentent toute existence. Savoir vivre se passe, chez lui, de savoir-vivre en bonne compagnie : l'esprit rumine l'épreuve solitaire avec plus de violence que la pratique sociale des semblables. Il faut, disait-il de Pascal — et il en faisait la matière de sa propre expérience —, payer pour la moindre des affirmations ou des négations qu'on s'autorise, et non simplement se rémunérer à la monnaie des certitudes commodes de l'aigreur. Là où le cynisme consiste en une dénégation sans scrupules de la condition  humaine, Cioran remue jusqu'au désabusement, se compromet dans l'irritation, sabote les systèmes et renverse leur ruine en une pleine acceptation du laconisme d'un monde incurable. Emil Cioran aura réussi une œuvre dont l'unité paradoxale consiste en une constante versatilité. Toutes les pistes explorées, qu'elle fussent artistiques, philosophiques ou littéraires, l'anathème, la malédiction et la virulence, l'espérance, l'apaisement ou la consolation, il en aura monté et démonté les beautés, les leurres et les impasses. Il ne cesse de changer de sujet ou d'objet pour retourner le même terreau : les mots ne sont utiles qu'à dissoudre les vérités qu'ils permettent d'arranger. Nul autre que lui n'a mené aussi loin cette difficile expérience. Le livre,dans la tradition occidentale, est le livre du maître. Les écrits du pyromane Cioran, quant à eux, ne délivrent aucune assurance magistrale ; ce sont des recueils d'exercices ne valant que pour ceux, sans se contenter de les lire, qui les appliquent à la déprise de soi, qui les tiennent pour autant d'occasions offertes de se pencher sur son propre cas et de devenir son propre maitre en calcination. Sous la réserve exigeante d'y pourvoir effectivement. Car les incendies allumés par Cioran ne se propagent pas aux bibliothèques ; ils s'attaquent aux traces que les bibliothèques ont laissées en nous, qui furent, en leur temps, bien nécessaires à l'affermissement de soi, et dont il faut savoir se défaire lors de cures régulières, sauf à se résigner à l'esclavage des systèmes et des pensées rassurantes.
► Jean-François Gautier, Antaïos n°12, 1997.

mercredi, 05 octobre 2011

Emil Cioran - Un siècle d'écrivains (1999)

Emil Cioran - Un siècle d'écrivains (1999)