“The sceptic-on-duty” (Rüdiger Punzet)

The Hindu, 04 December 2010

Profoundly influenced by Buddhism and Hinduism, the Romanian philosopher E.M. Cioran saw life as a quest for the void

The American literary critic Susan Sontag called him the French Nietzsche, John Updike dubbed him a frustrated monk, and Bernhard-Henri Lévy described him as a “Dandy of the void beside whom even the stoics appear as zealous bon vivants”. The Romanian philosopher and essayist E.M. Cioran (1911-1995) is considered one of the most critical thinkers and radical nihilists of the 20th century. In spite of his intense engagement with the Indian and Eastern philosophies and his deep admiration for them, Cioran is hardly known in this part of the world. To many who come in contact with his works he appears as an “aristocrat of doubt”, an “ungodly mystique”, a “reactionary” and a “cynic”. Cioran’s prose confronts the reader with an author who imposes an unmatched climate of cold apocalypse and scathing scepticism. In his book Anathemas and Admirations Cioran calls himself “The sceptic-on-duty of a decaying world”. He chose the essay and aphorism in particular to express himself as he was convinced that they perfectly captured the epigrammatic intensity of his thoughts: “The aphorism is cultivated only by those who have known fear in the midst of words, that fear of collapsing with all the words”… [+]