On the Heights of Despair

Overview

Born of a terrible insomnia—"a dizzying lucidity which would turn even paradise into hell"—this book presents the youthful Cioran, a self-described "Nietzsche still complete with his Zarathustra, his poses, his mystical clown's tricks, a whole circus of the heights."

On the Heights of Despair shows Cioran's first grappling with themes he would return to in his mature works: despair and decay, absurdity and alienation, futility and the irrationality of existence. It also ...

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Overview

Born of a terrible insomnia—"a dizzying lucidity which would turn even paradise into hell"—this book presents the youthful Cioran, a self-described "Nietzsche still complete with his Zarathustra, his poses, his mystical clown's tricks, a whole circus of the heights."

On the Heights of Despair shows Cioran's first grappling with themes he would return to in his mature works: despair and decay, absurdity and alienation, futility and the irrationality of existence. It also presents Cioran as a connoisseur of apocalypse, a theoretician of despair, for whom writing and philosophy both share the "lyrical virtues" that alone lead to a metaphysical revelation.

"No modern writer twists the knife with Cioran's dexterity. . . . His writing . . . is informed with the bitterness of genuine compassion."—Bill Marx, Boston Phoenix

"The dark, existential despair of Romanian philosopher Cioran's short meditations is paradoxically bracing and life-affirming. . . . Puts him in the company of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"This is self-pity as epigram, the sort of dyspeptic pronouncement that gets most people kicked out of bed but that has kept Mr. Cioran going for the rest of his life."—Judith Shulevitz, New York Times Book Review

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The dark, existential despair of Romanian philosopher Cioran's short meditations is paradoxically bracing and life-affirming. Written in 1934, when he was 22 and desperately insomniac, this feverishly lyrical, at times slyly humorous confessional outpouring reveals Cioran as an angry young man in morally decaying Europe--a far cry from the elegant, curt stylist of his later books. Here Cioran rails at life's irrationality and absurdities; embraces solitude, melancholy and the awareness of death; and breathes organic vitality into the great philosophical themes of truth, eternity, beauty, suffering and good and evil. After one separates mature wheat from adolescent chaff, Cioran's early philosophical prose, like his later works, puts him in the company of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. In the enriching introduction, Zarifopol-Johnston, who met the thinker in his modest Paris flat, described this book as ``a substitute for suicide and . . . its cure.'' (June)
Library Journal
Born in 1911, the author (who now lives in Paris) belongs to the group of 20th-century Romanian intellectuals that includes Mircea Eliade and Eugene Ionesco. This slim and elegantly translated volume, his first publication, originally appeared in 1934 and won him a national award for young authors. Its dark title should be taken as a whole: Cioran does indeed address death and despair, but from a healthy psychological perspective. While clearly a young man's work, this epigrammatic book is neither callow nor dated. For all Western philosophy collections and readers.-- Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley P.L., Cal.
Booknews
This audacious early work by the famed Romanian philosopher (b.1911), written in 1934, shows Cioran first grappling with themes he would return to in his mature works: despair and decay, absurdity and alienation, futility and the irrationality of existence. Translated and with an introduction by Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226106717
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/1996
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 150
  • Sales rank: 424,787
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

E. M. Cioran (1911-1995) was born and educated in Romania and lived in Paris from 1937 until his death. He is the author of numerous works, including On the Heights of Despair, also available from the University of Chicago Press.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Imagining Cioran
On Being Lyrical
How Distant Everything Is!
On Not Wanting to Live
The Passion for the Absurd
The World and I
Weariness and Agony
Despair and the Grotesque
The Premonition of Madness
On Death
Melancholy
Nothing Is Important
Ecstasy
The World in Which Nothing Is Solved
The Contradictory and the Inconsequential
On Sadness
Total Dissatisfaction
The Bath of Fire
Disintegration
On the Reality of the Body
I Do Not Know
On Individual and Cosmic Loneliness
Apocalypse
The Monopoly of Suffering
Absolute Lyricism
The Meaning of Grace
The Vanity of Compassion
Eternity and Morality
Moment and Eternity
History and Eternity
Not to Be a Man Anymore
Magic and Fatality
Unimaginable Joy
The Ambiguity of Suffering
All Is Dust
Enthusiasm as a Form of Love
Light and Darkness
Renunciation
The Blessings of Insomnia
On the Transubstantiation of Love
Man, the Insomniac Animal
Truth, What a Word!
The Beauty of Flames
The Paucity of Wisdom
The Return to Chaos
Irony and Self-Irony
On Poverty
The Flight from the Cross
The Cult of Infinity
Transfiguration of Banality
The Burden of Sadness
Degradation through Work
The Sense of Endings
The Satanic Principle of Suffering
An Indirect Animal
Impossible Truth
Subjectivity
Homo...
Love in Brief
Nothing Matters
The Sources of Evil
Beauty's Magic Tricks
Man's Inconsistency
Capitulation
Facing Silence
The Double and His Art
Nonsense
E. M. Cioran: A Short Chronology

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