“E.M. Cioran, or God Doesn’t Wear a Cane” (Andrei Codrescu)

Originally published in the American Book Review, vol. 1, no. 5, December/January 1978

In my bed of pain, with a crown of ice cubes araund my foot, I was proof that Paris is the best skateboarding town in the world. The square at St. Sulpice had run from under me like Los Angeles had from under Fred Astaire, to show me, possibly, that I wasn’t as young as my son. But the pain in my foot wasn’t as bad as the ache in my heart because now I couldn’t see the hero of my adolescence with whom, by clever and devious means, I had obtained an interview. I looked over the radiator at the roofs of Montparnasse eight floors down, and called Emil Cioran to tell him that I couldn’t make it that evening, that I was a cripple.

It is not pity, it is envy the tragic hero inspires in us, that lucky devil whose sufferings we devour as if we were entitied to them and he had cheated us of them. Why not try to take them back from him? In any case, they were meant for us … To be alI the more certain of that, we declare them our own, aggrandize them and give them excessive proportions; grappIe or groan before us as he will, he cannot move us, for we are not his spectators but his rivals, his competitors in the theatre, capable of supporting his miseries better than he is … (The Temptation to Exist 194)

Ever since I remember (and my memory only goes as far as my literate beginnings) I experienced that frisson of awe and envy at mention of Cioran’s name. Born in my hometown of Sibiu in Transylvania, he was a legend before I read him. Forbidden by the Communists, his books bumed with a flame that went way beyond their content, In the Iycee (the same one he had attended) I would positively dissolve at the thought that one day I might be good enough to meet him. The dazzling fantasy of being in Paris talking to Emil Cioran exhausted me. Here I was, at the core of my fantasy, unable to shake his hand. I was a tragic hero, not because of my wounded foot which they might or might not saw off, but because I couldn ‘t see him… [+]