“Literature and literary criticism according to an ‘incomplete disbeliever’, Emil Cioran” (Magda Wächter)

STUDIA UBB PHILOLOGIA, LXII, 1, 2017, p. 265 – 272.

ABSTRACT. Literature and Literary Criticism according to an Incomplete Disbeliever”, Emil Cioran. The present study analyses the views of Cioran, as an “incomplete believer” upon literature and literary criticism, as he defines himself. Despite his pretended reticence about these cultural fields, the philosopher, often considered a writer, both in Romania and in France, is a passionate literature reader, as well as the author of lyrical, highly expressive essays, convinced of the ontological value of literature and arts.
Keywords: Cioran, literature, literary criticism, lyricism, novel, philosophy, disbelief.

REZUMAT. Literatura şi critica literară în viziunea unui „sceptic incomplet”, Emil Cioran. Studiul de faţă analizează viziunea lui Cioran, ca „sceptic incomplet”, aşa cum se autodefineşte el, asupra literaturii şi a criticii literare. În pofida reticenţei declarate faţă de aceste domenii culturale, filosoful, adesea considerat, atât în România, cât şi în Franţa, un scriitor, este un cititor pasionat de literatură şi autorul unor eseuri lirice de o expresivitate remarcabilă, încredinţat de valoarea ontologică a literaturii şi a artei.
Cuvinte cheie: Emil Cioran, literatură, critică literară, lirism, roman, filosofie, scepticism.

In Emil Cioran’s view, literature and literary criticism hold a paradoxical privileged place. If, according to Mircea Eliade, Constantin Noica or Lucian Blaga, creation is a response to the “terror” of history, to the “tragic” human condition, as well as a possible way to overcome determinism, Cioran mainly positions himself against action of any kind. His insistent urge is towards non-manifestation and non-expression, both standing for an overall world denial. “On the edges of despair”, the young philosopher considers the human condition a tragedy, existence − meaningless, time − the greatest enemy of mankind, becoming – an unacceptable notion, history, culture and knowledge – real dramas. Man would thus be a mere unhappy animal, abandoned to death. Everything is called into question except vital, organic truths, springing from personal experience. And such truths are always supposed to be beyond verbal expression, in the disbeliever’s opinion.

Nevertheless, Cioran appears to be passionate about words, writing and reading at the high temperatures imposed by his restless spirit, ardently devoted to truth, even if only through this kind of seductive negations. According to his own repeatedly disclosed confessions, he writes just to avoid suicide and to endure life more easily. He describes himself as “an incomplete disbeliever” and as “an elegiac complainer over the end of the world”.

In his philosophy, which is rather an anti-philosophy, an appeal to vivid experience against conceptual thought, the initially discredited literature still gradually gains positive values. Moreover, Cioran’s non-systematic thought, predicated on negation, contradiction and paradox, is expressed in a remarkably lyrical style, noticed by most of his critics.

The philosopher of “the end of the world” constantly stands against being portrayed as a writer or as a man of letters, denying, in fact, any possible submission to specific directions or trends. In a dialogue with François Bondy, for instance, he claims to hate writing and to have written rather less. On another occasion, he confesses his disbelief in literature and pretends to have kept apart both from literature and from philosophy in his books. “No, I have neither talent, nor style”, he complains in his diary, adding that, in his opinion, writers stand for the most abhorrent species… [PDF]