"This book saved my life." So recalls the Romanian philosopher E. M. Cioran about a book that meditates on madness and death, the absurdity of existence, and the agony of consciousness. Cioran finds in our darkest fears not only reasons to continue living but also the comic, absurd humor in doing so. This early work by Cioran, whom Susan Sontag ...Read More"This book saved my life." So recalls the Romanian philosopher E. M. Cioran about a book that meditates on madness and death, the absurdity of existence, and the agony of consciousness. Cioran finds in our darkest fears not only reasons to continue living but also the comic, absurd humor in doing so. This early work by Cioran, whom Susan Sontag calls "the most distinguished figure in the tradition of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein, " and Marc Fumaroli recently described as "a legend...a master of French prose, " portrays the philosophical mind in the crisis of its self-consuming fever. Born out of a terrible insomnia which Cioran characterizes as "a dizzying lucidity which would turn even paradise into hell, " On the Heights of Despair was written in Romania in 1934 at the age of twenty-two. It presents us with the youthful Cioran, who described himself as "a Nietzsche still complete with his Zarathustra, his poses, his mystical clown's tricks, a whole circus of the heights." It also presents Cioran as a connoisseur of apocalypse, a theoretician of despair. For Cioran, writing and philosophy are closely related to physical suffering: both share the "lyrical virtues" that alone lead to metaphysical revelation. The result is a book that becomes a substitute for as well as an antidote to suicide. By enacting the struggle of the Romantic soul against God, the universe, and itself, Cioran releases a saving burst of lyrical energy that carries him safely out of his desperation. On the Heights of Despair shows the philosopher's first grappling with themes he would return to in his mature works: despair and decay, absurdity and alienation, futility and the irrationality of existence. Y the bracing verve of Cioran's writing and his earthy good humor point toward the elegant stylist of later works. An exorcism of despair, On the Heights of Despair offers insight into the ironic anguish of this philosophical mind. It also gives readers a fascinating look at CioraRead Less
New. Born of a terrible insomnia which E. M. Cioran called 'a dizzying lucidity which would turn even paradise into hell, ' this book presents the young philosopher, a self-described 'Nietzsche still complete with his Zarathustra, his poses, his mystical...
Publishers Weekly, 1992-05-11 The dark, existential despair of Romanian philosopher Cioran's short meditations is paradoxically bracing and life-affirming. Written in 1934, when he was 22 and desperately insomniac, this feverishly lyrical, at times slyly humorous confessional outpouring reveals Cioran as an angry young man in morally decaying Europe--a far cry from the elegant, curt stylist of his later books. Here Cioran rails at life's irrationality and absurdities; embraces solitude, melancholy and the awareness of death; and breathes organic vitality into the great philosophical themes of truth, eternity, beauty, suffering and good and evil. After one separates mature wheat from adolescent chaff, Cioran's early philosophical prose, like his later works, puts him in the company of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. In the enriching introduction, Zarifopol-Johnston, who met the thinker in his modest Paris flat, described this book as ``a substitute for suicide and . . . its cure.'' (June)
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