Cioran is a fifty-six year old Rumanian who has been writing in French since the late Forties. Neither a ""thematic"" nor ""structuralist"" critic, the two reigning modes of discourse in Paris, Cioran's philosophical essays on aesthetic and historical problems are, nevertheless, modern in character, however much the tone echoes such writers as Pascal, Unamuno, or Valery. Indeed, nothing could be more au courant than the following: ""Since every form of life betrays and corrupts Life, the man who is genuinely alive assumes a maximum of incompatibilities, works relentlessly at pleasure and pain alike, espousing the nuances of the one as of the other, refusing all distinct sensations and every unmingled state."" Like most French dialecticians, Cioran enjoys spinning a paradoxical, even hermetic, language; but, being a good European, his paragraphs are shapely, rarely garbled, and studded here and there with aphorisms: ""All classicism finds its laws in itself and abides by them: it lives in a present without a history; while we are living in a history which keeps us from having a present."" His most striking reflections can be found in his study of the Jews: ""A chosen people without Grace. Thus their prayers have all the more merit in that they are addressed to a God without an alibi."" That a thinker of such subtlety and enticement should be available in translation, and introduced by Susan Sontag, is perhaps an indication of how sophisticated we're becoming.