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'Not to be born is undoubtedly the best plan of all. Unfortunately it is within no one's reach.' In The Trouble With Being Born, E. M. Cioran grapples with the major questions of human existence: birth, death, God, the passing of time, how to relate to others and how to make ourselves get out of bed in the morning. In a series of interlinking aphorisms which are at once pessimistic, poetic and extremely funny, Cioran finds a kind of joy in his own despair, revelling in the absurdity and futility of our existence, and our inability to live in the world. Translated by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and critic Richard Howard, The Trouble With Being Born is a provocative, illuminating testament to a singular mind.
A Short History of Decay (1949) is E. M. Cioran's nihilistic and witty collection of aphoristic essays concerning the nature of civilization in mid 20th-century Europe. Touching upon man's need to worship, the feebleness of God, the downfall of the Ancient Greeks and the melancholy baseness of all existence, Cioran's pieces are pessimistic in the extreme, but also display a beautiful certainty that renders them delicate, vivid, and memorable. Illuminating and brutally honest, A Short History of Decay dissects man's decadence in a remarkable series of moving and beautiful pieces.
By the mid-1930s, Emil Cioran was already known as a leader of a new generation of politically committed Romanian intellectuals. Researching another, more radical book, Cioran was spending hours in a library poring over the lives of saints. As a modern hagiographer, Cioran dreamt himself the chronicler of these saints' falls between heaven and earth, the intimate knower of the ardors in their hearts, the historian of God's insomniacs. Inspired by Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, Cioran searched for the origin of tears. He asked himself if saints could be the sources of tears' better light. Who can tell? he wrote in the first paragraph of this book, first published in Romania in 1937. To be sure, tears are their trace. Tears did not enter the world through the saints; but without them we would never have known that we cry because we long for a lost paradise. By following in their traces, wetting the soles of one's feet in their tears, Cioran hoped to understand how a human being can renounce being human. Written in Cioran's characteristic aphoristic style, this flamboyant, bold, and provocative book is one of his most important?and revelatory?works. Cioran focuses not on martyrs or heroes but on the mystics?primarily female?famous for their keening spirituality and intimate knowledge of God. Their Christianity was anti-theological, anti-institutional, and based solely on intuition and sentiment. Many, such as Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, and Saint John of the Cross, have produced classic works of mystical literature; but Cioran celebrates many more minor and unusual figures as well. Following Nietzsche, he focuses explicitly on the political element hidden in saints' lives. In his hands, however, their charitable deeds are much less interesting than their thirst for pain and their equally powerful capacity to endure it. Behind their suffering and their uncanny ability to renounce everything through ascetic practices, Cioran detects a fanatical will to power. Like Nietzsche, Cioran is an important religious thinker. His book intertwines God and music with passion and tears. . . . [Tears and Saints] has a chillingly contemporary ring that makes this translation important here and now. ?Booklist