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I have not had the decency, paltry individual that I am, to eliminate myself."" So instead of swallowing poison, Cioran chews his pessimistic cud through 192 pages of pensÉes on the nightmare of history, its approaching cataclysmic end, and, above all, the sickening void of existence. Readers of Cioran's earlier work (The Temptation to Exist, The Fall into Time, etc.) will find nothing new here; but if your tastes run to epigrammatic nihilism, then you may enjoy the shots of philosophical absinthe he serves up on this occasion. (""If everything were tending toward the best, the old, furious at being unable to take advantage of this situation, would all die of vexation."") For sober analysis, on the other hand, you'd better look elsewhere. Cioran apparently hopes to emulate such great masters of the aphorism as Pascal, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsehe, but he's just not in their league. He's a failed Buddhist (""To think that for such a long time I have done nothing but concern myself with my corpse . . .""), obsessed with absurdity (much like that other Frenchified Rumanian, Eugene Ionesco), but inclined less to protest than to morose delectation in the apocalyptic twilight--as he sees it--of civilization. Cioran, to be sure, can be sensible as well as silly. Though he anticipates the triumph of unconsciousness (""the one true paradise"") rather complacently, he also displays a kind of moral outrage (illogical, perhaps, but it does him credit anyway) over the evils preceding or attending that triumph. And if not terribly profound, he's readable and sometimes witty. If the Me Generation ever starts feeling Sartrean nausea, it may find in Cioran a vivid--and vaguely masochistic--articulation of its distress.

Pub Date: Sept. 28th, 1981
Publisher: Seaver--dist. by Random House