Tears and Saints

Tears and Saints

by E. M. Cioran
     
 

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By the mid-1930s, Emil Cioran was already known as a leader of a new generation of politically committed Romanian intellectuals. Researching another, more radical book, Cioran was spending hours in a library poring over the lives of saints. As a modern hagiographer, Cioran "dreamt" himself "the chronicler of these saints' falls between heaven and earth, the… See more details below

Overview


By the mid-1930s, Emil Cioran was already known as a leader of a new generation of politically committed Romanian intellectuals. Researching another, more radical book, Cioran was spending hours in a library poring over the lives of saints. As a modern hagiographer, Cioran "dreamt" himself "the chronicler of these saints' falls between heaven and earth, the intimate knower of the ardors in their hearts, the historian of God's insomniacs." Inspired by Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, Cioran "searched for the origin of tears." He asked himself if saints could be "the sources of tears' better light."

"Who can tell?" he wrote in the first paragraph of this book, first published in Romania in 1937. "To be sure, tears are their trace. Tears did not enter the world through the saints; but without them we would never have known that we cry because we long for a lost paradise." By following in their traces, "wetting the soles of one's feet in their tears," Cioran hoped to understand how a human being can renounce being human. Written in Cioran's characteristic aphoristic style, this flamboyant, bold, and provocative book is one of his most important—and revelatory—works.

Cioran focuses not on martyrs or heroes but on the mystics—primarily female—famous for their keening spirituality and intimate knowledge of God. Their Christianity was anti-theological, anti-institutional, and based solely on intuition and sentiment. Many, such as Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, and Saint John of the Cross, have produced classic works of mystical literature; but Cioran celebrates many more minor and unusual figures as well.

Following Nietzsche, he focuses explicitly on the political element hidden in saints' lives. In his hands, however, their charitable deeds are much less interesting than their thirst for pain and their equally powerful capacity to endure it. Behind their suffering and their uncanny ability to renounce everything through ascetic practices, Cioran detects a fanatical will to power.

"Like Nietzsche, Cioran is an important religious thinker. His book intertwines God and music with passion and tears. . . . [Tears and Saints] has a chillingly contemporary ring that makes this translation important here and now."—Booklist

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In her lengthy introduction, the translator deems this book a "discourse on spirituality, asceticism and suffering for the love of Christ." More specifically, the author asserts that saints maintain a "will to power which reaps nothing but empty and cruel suffering." Cioran looks for a reason to become a believer by exploring the lives of minor saints but ends up interpreting their tears only as a sign of their penchant for suffering. Ultimately, Cioran comes closest to becoming a believer through experiencing music, especially Bach. First published in Bucharest in 1937, this work caused quite a storm because many readers considered it blasphemous. Perusing the text in 1995, however, a few decades after God was declared dead on the covers of popular news magazines, some readers may find the comments to be more black humor than blasphemy. Recommended for subject collections.Olivia Opello, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, N.Y.
Wendy Doniger
I am converted. "Tears and Saints" is what Nietzsche would be like if he had ever been born again. -- Wendy Doniger

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226106748
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
07/28/1998
Edition description:
1
Pages:
154
Sales rank:
886,347
Product dimensions:
5.13(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.60(d)

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