A SHORT HISTORY OF DECAY by E. M. Cioran

A SHORT HISTORY OF DECAY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Born a Catholic, always a Catholic, however lapsed and heretical. Having first outgrown his passion for the female saints of the Church, Cioran then ""turned away from philosophy when it became impossible to discover in Kant any human weakness"" and emerged as an ""anti-philosopher"" with an avowed predilection for music, mysticism and poetry. Nevertheless his metaphysical broodings on the miserable lot of man--""the disease of being""--are all watched over by saints, angels, martyrs, sages and even God. The genesis of his melancholy is a religious nature of the sort that loathes both self and ""Life."" He proves by sophism that what men know as virtue is the evil principle that corrupts civilization. Thus, as the title suggests, this is an absolute refutation of Hegel who ""failed to see that consciousness. . . never progresses."" Frivolity, nothingness and style are offered as ethical alternatives: for a cultural hero, ""imagine a Valery with the soul of a Nero. . . ."" To be sure, Cioran is said to be a stylist of the first order, although capable of turning such phrases as ""the disgust of generations linked like propositions in the sterile fatality of a syllogism."" Unlike Kant, his thought is expressed in an intense poetry of tears, shames, ecstasies, complaints, grimaces, sighs. He has elevated neurasthenia to a faith.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 1975
Publisher: Viking