HISTORY AND UTOPIA by E.M. Cioran

HISTORY AND UTOPIA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In six essays, a leading French philosopher debunks utopian literature, and argues that we can find happiness only in an ""eternal present"" that ""resides within us."" Cioran (The Trouble with Being Born, The Temptation to Exist, etc.) is not a romantic; he concentrates on the negative side of things, and seeks through irony, paradox, and bold assertion to overturn traditional ways of thinking. ""Not to forget an insult,"" he writes in ""Odyssey of Rancor,"" ""is one of the secrets of success, an art invariably possessed by men with strong convictions, for every conviction consists chiefly of hate, and only secondly of love."" Elsewhere in that same essay he asserts that ""all contemporaries are odious."" Seeking through extreme example to show the lunacy of looking for perfection anywhere but in ourselves, Cioran counsels us in ""Learning from the Tyrants"" to distrust even our best friends, who ""secretly long for. . .our collapse, our humiliation, and our ruin."" Paradoxically, the only way to find the happiness within ourselves is to look for it elsewhere: ""We must have inspected every paradise, past and possible, have loved and hated them with all the clumsiness of fanaticism."" Witty, aphoristic, shocking, Cioran is most delightful when he is most pessimistic, most revealing when most depressing, most realistic when most absurd. A stimulating collection.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1987
Publisher: Henry Holt