“The «clairvoyants des abîmes»: Cioran, Reader of F.M. Dostoievsky” (Sergio García Guillem)

Human and Social Studies (HSS) – The Journal of “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University from Iasi, vol. 2, Issue 3 (Oct 2022), pp. 124-139.

By Sergio García Guillem – Faculty of Philosophy and Sciences of Education, University of Valencia, Avenida Blanco Ibáñez 13, Nivel 4, Valencia, 46010, Spain

Abstract: The discovery of F.M. Dostoyevsky by young E. M. Cioran marks a turning point for a better understanding of his first Romanian work and his later production in French. His first work, Pe culmile disperării [On the Heights of Despair] (1934) has a tragic breath, typically dostoyevskyan, which reminds us of the tragical and sick conscience of the (anti)hero of his Notes from the Underground (1864).

Keywords: Conscience, Sickness, Despair, Existence, Lucidity, Literature, Philosophy.

“I’ll join with black despair against my soul/
And to myself become an enemy”
(W. Shakespeare, Richard III)

“Le poète, conservateur des infinis visages du vivant”
(René Char, Fureur et Mystère)

Encounters in the underground: Cioran & Dostoyevsky

“[…] Il me semble que tous les héros de Dostoïevski sont ainsi : il leur faut trouver un vin qui étourdisse et captive leur soif de vie intense, il leur faut dépasser les limites de l’homme, aller jusqu’aux confins, se brûler les ailes à un poison quelconque, pourvu qu’il soit plus fort que l’homme : ange ou démon, qu’importe ! Ils étouffent dans la carcasse que la nature leur a donnée, il leur faut trouver autre chose […]”

These words, fruit of the correspondence between the Dominican friar Marie-Dominique Molinié and his good friend, the French-Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran, contain extremely interesting information for a better comprehension of Dostoyevsky’s literary work and, concretely, for a better intrusion into the tragic soul of his prominent figures. The metaphor of this framework that suffocates the nature of his heroes is reflected in much clearer and diverse forms in the figure of “man from the underground”, the tormented par excellence. It is thus important to investigate this strange creature endowed with a tragic humanity, so present throughout the pages of Notes from the Underground, out of the whole polyphonic amalgam – to use a bakhtinian term – that Dostoyevsky offers us in his novels; young Cioran might represent – as we will strive to prove – the haughtiest and closest alter ego of this character. This short work, divided in two parts, will reveal the strong literary and ideological evolution of young Dostoyevsky, escaped from the Siberian captivity up to becoming a mature Dostoyevsky worried by the macabre soul and the tragic conscience of his prominent figures. It is here that young Cioran, exasperated with the philosophical conjecture of his youth, and sheltering in a heart-breaking shout, meets the purificating reading of the Russian writer (“[…] I consider Dostoyevsky to be the major writer of all times, the deepest”). The reading, among others, as Cioran himself confesses, of The Demons, The Brothers Karamazov or The Idiot awakens a demonic lucidity in the young Romanian student. [Pdf]