Cioran’s letters to Wolf Aichelburg” (Rodica Brad)

The Proceedings of the International Conference Globalization, Intercultural Dialogue and National Identity

Volume no. 2, 2015

Conference date: 28 May 2015

Location: Tîrgu-Mureş, Mureş

Editorial Information:
Debates on Globalization. Approaching National Identity through Intercultural Dialogue / ed.: Iulian Boldea – Tîrgu-Mureş : Arhipelag XXI, 2015 ISBN 978-606-93692-5-8
(C) Arhipelag XXI Press, 2015

Rodica Brad, Prof. PhD, ”Lucian Blaga” University of Sibiu

Abstract: The article aims at presenting Cioran’s letters to Wolf Aichelburg, (1912 -1994), poet, essayist and composer orignar fron Sibiu and friend with Cioran. We mention that for this presentation we will cite letters published in the volume Scrisori către cei de-acasă (Letters to the ones back home) in 1995 at Humanitas Publishing House. The interest of this correspondence lays in the life of the two, in their common preoccupations and in Cioran’s way of thinking concerning the history, the evolution of events in Romania, France or in Occident in general. Even if we do not also have Aichelburg’s letters to Cioran, we consider that reviewing Cioran’s letters reveals exceptional epistolary virtues of Cioran also concerning this correspondence. It is a literary personality that Cioran valued in a special way, especially due to a similarity of the destinies, Aichelburg being for Cioran exiled in Romania, the way he himself had been exiled in France. These letters reveal exchanges of impressions and idea, various political, literary, philosophical comments, everything in an amazing and shining formula, which Cioran unfolds faced with a valuable writer, with a dramatic faith, with a vast culture and with which Cioran has profound afinitites. In fact, Cioran has tried to help Aichelburg with his connections in the French, Austrian or German literary environment. An important aspect is also the appartenance of both authors to the Austro-Hungarian space at their births. Started in 1970, this correspondence continued even after Aichelburg’s emmigration in Germany.

Keywords: Letter, Cioran, Aichelburg, poetry, literature, translation, Sibiu

Corespondența lui Cioran cu cei de-acasă a fost comentată de Ion Vartic, de Constantin Cubleșan și, de dată mai recentă, de Dan C. Mihăilescu. Toți acești autori subliniază fapul că în corespondență, întâlnim ecourile unui suflet zbuciumat care se manifestă zgomotos și endemic, reacționând la tot ce se întâmplă, iar reacțiile sunt notate la cald, într-un stil cuceritor și în note din care, în toate nuanțele posibile, răzbate dragostea de viață, tenacitatea în cultivarea ei, dincolo de meditația adesea deprimantă asupra sensurilor și formelor ei de manifestare. Imaginea lui Cioran epistolier nu este în fond divergentă față de restul operei, ci complementară, și finalmente absolut necesară înțelegerii acestei personalități cu totul aparte din literatura ultimului veac. În acest recitativ liric care este uneori textul scrisorilor, Cioran este viu, spectaculos în idei și poziții, cuceritor în stil, lucid și mai ales reactiv… [+]


Gombrowicz’s reply to Cioran’s ‘‘The Conveniences and Inconveniences of Exile’’

Giedroyc wanted me to reply to Cioran’s (a Rumanian writer) article, ‘‘The Conveniences and Inconveniences of Exile.’’ The answer contains my view of the role of literature in exile.

Cioran’s words reek of a basement coolness and the rot of the grave, but they are too petty. Who is he talking about? Who should one understand to be the ‘‘writer in exile’’? Adam Mickiewicz wrote books and so does Mr. X, quite correct and readable ones, both are ‘‘writers’’ and nota bene, writers in exile, but here all parallels end.

Rimbaud? Norwid? Kafka? Słowacki? (There are a variety of exiles.) I believe that none of them would have been too horrified at this category of hell. It is very painful not to have readers and very unpleasant not to be able to publish one’s works. It certainly is not sweet being unknown, highly unpleasant to see oneself deprived of the aid of that mechanism that pushes one to the top, that creates publicity and organizes fame, but art is loaded with elements of loneliness and self-sufficiency, it finds its satisfaction and sense of purpose in itself. The homeland? Why, every eminent person because of that very eminence was a foreigner even at home. Readers? Why, they never wrote ‘‘for’’ readers anyway, always ‘‘against’’ them. Honors, success, reknown, fame: why, they became famous exactly because they valued themselves more than their success.

And that which is a little Kafka, Conrad, or Mickiewicz in even the smaller caliber writer, that which is genuine talent and real superiority or real maturity, will in no measure fit into Cioran’s basement. I would also like to remind Cioran that not only émigré but all art remains in the most intimate contact with decay, it is born of decadence, it is a transmutation of illness into health. All art, generally speaking, borders on silliness, defeat, degradation. Is there an artist who is not, as Cioran says, ‘‘an ambitious being, aggressive in his defeat, embittered, a conniving conqueror’’? Has Cioran ever seen an artist or writer who was not, who did not have to be, a megalomaniac? And art, as Boy once correctly said, is a graveyard: for every thousand people who were incapable of ‘‘coming into existence’’ and who remained in a sphere of painful insufficiency, barely one or two is capable of really ‘‘coming into existence.’’ This dirt, therefore, this venom of unsatisfied ambitions, this tossing and turning in a vacuum, this catastrophe has very little to do with emigration and a lot to do with art. They make up an aspect of every literary café and truly it is a matter of indifference where in the world the writers who are not writers enough in order to really be writers, suffer.

And perhaps it is healthier that they were deprived of doles, applause, all those tiny caresses that the state and society lavished upon them in the good old days in the name of ‘‘supporting native creativity.’’ This family playing at greatness and distinction, the sympathetic noise created at one time by the condescendingly smiling press and the half-baked critics, deprived of a feeling for the scale of events, that process of artificially pumping candidates up into a ‘‘national writer’’ . . . didn’t all this reek of kitsch? And the result? Nations that at best were capable of producing a few authentic writers nurtured entire hosts of wonders in this incubator, and in this familial warmth, which was a mixture of spinsterish goodness and a cynical disregard for values, all hierarchy disintegrated. Is it surprising then that these hothouse creations, nurtured in the womb of the nation, wilt when out of the womb? Cioran writes about how a writer torn away from his people is lost. If that is the case, this writer never existed in the first place: he was a writer in embryo. Instead, it seems to me that theoretically speaking and bypassing material hardship, the immersing of oneself in the world, that is, emigration, should constitute an incredible stimulus for literature.

For lo and behold the country’s elite is kicked out over the border. It can think, feel, and write from the outside. It gains distance. It gains an incredible spiritual freedom. All bonds burst. One can be more of oneself. In the general din all the forms that have existed until now loosen up and one can move toward the future in a more ruthless way.

An exceptional opportunity! The moment everyone has dreamed of ! It would seem, therefore, that the stronger individuals, the richer individuals would roar like lions! Then why don’t they? Why has the voice of these people faded abroad?

They do not roar because, first of all, they are too free. Art demands style, order, discipline. Cioran correctly underscores the danger of too much isolation, of excessive freedom. Everything to which they were tied and everything that bound them homeland, ideology, politics, group, program, faith, milieu—everything vanished in the whirlpool of history and only a bubble filled with nothingness remained on the surface. Those thrown out of their little world found themselves facing a world, a boundless world and, consequently, one that was impossible to master. Only a universal culture can come to terms with the world, never parochial cultures, never those who live only on fragments of existence. Only he who knows how to reach deeper, beyond the homeland, only he for whom the homeland is but one of the revelations in an eternal and universal life, will not be incited to anarchy by the loss of his homeland. The loss of a homeland will not disturb the internal order of only those whose homeland is the world. Contemporary history has turned out to be too violent and borderless for literatures too national and specific.

And it is exactly this excess of freedom that inhibits the writer most. Threatened by the enormity of the world and the finality of its affairs, they grasp at the past convulsively; they cling desperately to themselves; they want to remain as they were; they fear even the slightest change in themselves, thinking that everything will then fall apart; and, finally, they cling convulsively to the only hope remaining: the hope of recovering the homeland. Recovering the homeland, however, cannot come to pass without waging a battle, and a battle requires strength and collective strength can be achieved only by giving up one’s I. In order to produce this strength, the writer must impose a blind faith, among other deficiencies, on himself and his compatriots and the luxury of objective and free thinking becomes a grievous sin. He does not know how to be a writer without a homeland or in order to regain his homeland, he has to stop being a writer, at least a serious writer.

Though perhaps there is yet another reason for this spiritual paralysis, at least where it is not a matter of intellectuals but artists. I have in mind the very concept of art and the artist, as it has come to be accepted in Western Europe. It does not seem to be that our modern beliefs concerning the essence of art, the role of the artist, the relationship of artist to society have tallied with reality. The artistic philosophy of the West derives from the elite in crystallized societies where nothing interferes with conventional language but there is nothing a man thrown outside the limits of convention can do with such a philosophy. The concept of art forged on that side of the curtain by the victorious bureaucracy of the proletariat is even more elitist and more naive. An artist in emigration, however, is forced to exist not only outside of his people, but also outside of the elite. He confronts the spiritually and intellectually inferior sphere far more directly. Nothing isolates him from this contact, he has personally to endure the pressure of a brutal and immature life. He is like a bankrupt count who sees that the manners of the salon are worthless if there is no salon. Sometimes this pushes people in the direction of ‘‘democratic’’ shallowness, into a kindly ordinariness or into a crude ‘‘realism’’ and sometimes it condemns them to isolation. We have to find a way to feel like aristocrats once again (in the deeper sense of the word).

Therefore, if there is talk about the disintegration and decadence of émigré literature, then this notion of the issue would be closest to me because here, at least, we liberate ourselves for a moment from the vicious circle of trivialities and touch the difficulties capable of destroying authentic writers. I do not deny at all that overcoming these problems requires a great determination and boldness of spirit. It is not easy to be an émigré writer, which means almost total isolation. Why should it be surprising, therefore, that overcome by our own weakness and the enormity of the tasks, we bury our heads in the sand and, organizing parodies of the past for ourselves, we flee the big world to live in our little one?

Yet sooner or later our thought must work its way out of the impasse. Our problems will find people to solve them. At some point, it is no longer a matter of creativity itself, but the recovery of the capacity to create. We have to produce that portion of freedom, boldness, ruthlessness, and even, I would say, irresponsibility, without which creation is impossible. We have to accustom ourselves to a new scale of existence. We will have to treat our most cherished feelings unceremoniously, with sangfroid in order to attain other values. The minute we begin to shape the world in the place where we happen to be and with the means at our disposal, the enormity of the task will shrink, the boundlessness will become delineated, and the turbulent waters of chaos will begin to recede.

GOMBROWICZ, Witold. Diary. Transl. by Lillian Vallee. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2012, pps. 48-52.

The Exile Literature – A New Perspective: Hoffman, Celan, Cioran

Lector univ. dr.  Mara Magda MAFTEI
(„Academia de Studii Economice” din Bucureşti)

The Guardian, April 28, 2001

This paper does not mean to cover all the positive and negative aspects of the exile literature, a particular kind of literature; it is not a bird’s eye view of this kind of literature, globally speaking. It insists on the way the exiled is accepting the new language, internalizing it, transposing his/her thoughts in a new linguistic pattern. I chose three writers, with a different personal life background, different approaches to the new acquired language, various emotions. A new language gives a new identity; then it follows the struggle to combine the previous identity with the newly achieved one. The exiled, content or not with his/her new position, never becomes a fully native, and this is perceived especially at a both linguistic and stylistic level. The new perspective is given by the way the exiled is reconsidering the new language.The exile literature has always represented a special kind of literature, a type of writing where the style is suffering from a sort of misappropriation, somehow hard to be fully imposed because of an incomplete absorption of the adopted language, of the mis-feeling of emotions, which are to be sacrificed in order to fit in a new sounding correct pattern. There is also the desire the writer has to fulfill his/her own destiny, a real social acknowledgement. Learning a new language, especially when supposed to identify oneself with it, in order to create or sub-create samples of human mood, characters, means acquiring a new identity, identity one has to internalize it, to feel it proper, to measure it in point of awareness. The double nature of the exiled – s/he has to choose one way of mastering his/her feelings in order to externalize them on the page and, on the other hand, to make them intelligible in a new out-born language. A double existence, terrible in its attempt, which has no other way out but in madness, suicide, resignation. Most exiled writers were mad enough to assume a copyrighted existence, a borrowed life, but where art was the supreme vocation and target. It is art, which imposes the human being, not vice versa. However, a new language gives a new self; how well this new self is acquired, it depends on the age the writer has left the country. I shall not say that the motivation is stronger if s/he leaves the native country at an earlier age, but the thoughts and emotions are better transferred to a new structure and pattern of words. In addition, the exiled always leaves a less developed country for a well-developed one; the so-called civilization has always represented a magnetic, magnified, but also malicious world to marginal cultures. It is also difficult to the exiled to “accumulate” the canons, the history, the experience, the sentimental and moral behavior of the adopted culture. The original elements in an exile literature are given by inserting native data into non-native contexts. For example, it is fiction to French when hearing about Romanian invincible disposition towards irony, etc.

Writers, no matter where they come from, do create wealth within the borders of their own countries, but when it comes to Lilliputian cultures, the wealth is limited to national boundaries, the international community is barely speaking e.g. Romanian or Polish; it is up to individual choices to take national values outside inner borders and popularize them by choosing an international, but dislocated career. The most famous characters are imposed either by native writers who had the political support to assert themselves, being part of a group, or by non-natives, who represent a curious bold in the normal pattern of the Western culture. Surprisingly, but important, big cultures would be closed communities if the passions, ambitious, vices brought forth by Lilliputian cultures would not animate them.

In addition, for the exiled, the literature s/he produces remains an effort to temper the inborn tensions, often dialectical tension in searching for a new cultural identity. The problem of identity becomes an acute one, half borne, half acquired, never a complete one. The new identity includes a historical original background, and an achieved one, two different notions in time. The language suddenly becomes unable to produce a meaningful thought and the new space to be created turns out to be restrictive, it lacks the basic sense of comfort, not capable of rendering any common tensions, which persist, and in the end, booms in one exceptional character, one pleasant writing surprising the most vigorous international piece of literature. This multifaceted cultural production, personal history, national developments have to be embedded in both political and aesthetic contexts in order to be complex. There is also something that does not have to be at all ignored, i.e. the personal life of the exiled, his/her ability to surpass earlier traumas, the ability to integrate personal experience in a new political and social background in order to produce half artistic, half real life contexts. If days in a new country look like a pyramid, then the foundation is how solid personal experiences are, the intermediary stage being given by how successful the integration in the new culture is, the top of pyramid is made by a continuous hope, hope in managing to impose the kind of art one is producing, hope to preserve and draw people’s attention on national problems (there are many examples as such), hope that experience can be mastered and reproduced on paper.

1. Eva Hoffman – a successful exiled

Eva Hoffman was born in Krakow and immigrated with her family to Canada after the Second World War II. She was 13 years old when her parents chose to leave Poland. To her, English was a tough, unspeakable language, but, due to her young approach, not impossible to master and even use in artistic production. She is the example of a successful immigrant, young enough to have time to internalize the necessity to exploit a different language and the one option requirement i.e. living as better as possible in a new environment. She, later on, received a Ph. D in English and American Literature from Harvard and was a professor of literature and of creative writing at Columbia, the University of Minnesota. She also was an editor and writer at the New York Times. It took her some time to learn English, but the determination was high enough. It matters a lot the immigration age. Human beings tend to preserve very well memories of their childhood, all the life is patterned on early memories, if these memories are traumatic, then the life and all the literature produced will show signs of a disturbing personality. Also, a child is more determined to adapt him/herself to the new world, more resolute to become famous, not so dejected like a 30-years individual, fighting to hide past experiences, tired to disguise them, unable to cover the future with illusive hopes, focused on a multidimensional present. However, an exile cannot be surpassed completely. Remembering this, Eva Hoffman noticed, I think every immigrant becomes a kind of amateur anthropologist—you do notice things about the culture or the world that you come into that people who grow up in it, who are very embedded in it, simply don’t notice. I think we all know it from going to a foreign place. And at first you notice the surface things, the surface differences. And gradually you start noticing the deeper differences. And very gradually you start with understanding the inner life of the culture, the life of those both large and very intimate values. It was a surprisingly long process is what I can say.

Most exiled are nostalgic, it does not matter that the exile is still considered a better choice, but when the awareness of having become deprived of one inborn right becomes acute, the mind is sharp. Nostalgia is a source of poetry, and a form of fidelity. The largest presence within me is a welling up of absence, of what I have lost, is confessing Eva Hoffman. 

When learning a new language, thinking in that language is imperative. However, how to transcend feelings, coordinate them in a new language? That is the difficult choice. The better the exiled does it, the easier the acceptance among adopted culture will become. Some never succeed, but it is this type of success that would make an exiled writer famous or not, even if the literature produced by him/her will always notify an imported sense of being, a special writing. Emotions are still artificial when put on paper, somehow translated, kept insight, more intuitive, than uttered. Words have artificial meanings when not native, somehow strange, because they come out from heart and brain, personal organs, in a new language they create a new identity; they are regarded like a new being, developing side by side to the old one, odd, but determined to impose itself, accepted by lack of alternatives, but never fully felt. Eva Hoffman has a very intricate opinion about a new language, English in her case: in English, words have not penetrated to those layers of my psyche from which a private conversation could proceed. This interval before sleep used to be the time when my mind became both receptive and alert, when images and words rose up to consciousness, reiterating what had happened during the day, adding the day’s experiences to those already stored there, spinning out the thread of my personal story.

Her immigration trauma is recorded in Lost in Translation, where she describes the way she was properly assimilated to the American culture, the imperative to translate all her experiences into a new language, and especially the urgencies to see the new ones by means of an unusual expressive instrument. There is also the gap felt by those who come from communism towards capitalism; for Western civilizations, lacking important historical data, somehow protected and isolated from mass manipulation devices, knowing them from books, the gap may sound easy to overcome, they are not so critical with their own selves, as they have no stage to surpass in their recognition, they are born to receive everything, while people coming from Eastern and Central European countries are born to get nothing, unless they strive for. Melancholia is the main string here. The promise land creates dejection and nostalgia for the lost past, idealization of what used to be, even not perfect; when the exiled becomes aware of his/her coming from a marginal culture, the sense of unimportance and insignificance is acute. Eva Hoffman felt the need to write the autobiography in order to master her past, not all exiled are tempted to do so, some, on the contrary, do whatever to hide their past; in both cases, the cultural decision has or turns into a political motivation. Eva Hoffman’s melancholy is intensified in exile by the reaction of marginality followed by the practice of idealization of the native culture and an effort to intellectualize the inner suffering. In Eva Hoffman’s case, the idealization of the Polish culture is most evident in her silence about her Jewish.

2. Paul Celan – an outcast example

Paul Celan was not as lucky as Eva Hoffman was, probably because he did not immigrated at such an early age. He was born in Cernauti, Romania, in 1920, at a time when Cernauti was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and German the common language of the extended cosmopolitan community. Celan spoke German at home and Romanian at school, learning later on French, Russian, Ukrainian. As different from Eva Hoffman, Celan was a multilingual, and even more, born without a country, nowhere feeling himself at home, having no native language, just a dominating one that was German. However, he had miserable past experiences. In 1942, the Germans deported his parents to labor camps in Ukraine. They did not survive more than a few months. When the Russians liberated Romania in 1944, Celan refused to live in a communist Romania, he moved first to Vienna and then to Paris. But Celan was not a French speaker. He, the multilingual, found it very difficult to express himself in this language, despising German in the same time and he wrote there’s nothing in the world for which a poet will give up writing, not even when he is a Jew and the language of his poems is German. Celan was not home when his parents were arrested, he would never manage to surpass the feel of guilty overcoming him. Strange, but Celan will use German to express his hate, reconstructing the language, re-building it on a historical pattern, because German is the language of the Holocaust, the language of those killing his parents; poetry patterned on death or vice versa, words combinations, musicality stand for extermination camps, for sufferance. There is no nostalgia, as in the case of Eva Hoffman, but hate and refutation.

On the contrary, it is French which will give him a sense of loneliness and isolation, feel of inadequacy in a too touchy world, far from miserable events, but he will marry in France and live in Paris until his suicide by drowning in the Seine in 1970.

In Celan’s life, there are two periods: before and after his parent’s death. Language changes after this event, in an attempt to put language at work and at blame for past happenings, to separate various moments in his traumatic life. Each stage in his life is associated with a new change in point of language; language is a pre-fabrication of personality, which modifies when words have to take a different spelling, even if uttered by the same consciousness and felt by the same tormenting brain. Celan writes about language only one thing remained reachable, close and secure amid all losses: language. Yes, language. In spite of everything, it remained secure against loss. But it had to go through its own lack of answers, through terrifying silence, through the thousand dark nesses of murderous speech. It went through. It gave me no words for what was happening, but went through it. Went through and could resurface, “enriched” by it all. Language is the most worn out instrument of a human being’s architecture. A polyglot (not to forget that he also wrote in Romanian in early times), Celan had not a language problem or feeling like an outcast, exiled, but he was always between worlds, never home; the exile did not have for him the same meaning as it had for an ordinary one. He practically had one language, i. e. German, in an attempt to either destroy it or create it, because German was the only language, which, in his opinion gives back no words for that which happened, no justification; unfortunately history is made under the name of one language and it is strange that people suffering the consequences of different historical segments start hating the language provoking the trauma, the disrupter; language does not have after all its own personality, it is a copy, a landmark. However, language may copy one’s personality until getting to identify the individual with the language he becomes famous in, or the language s/he speaks in.

Celan’s language developed with his own personality; in the end, it turned out to be more urgent, more imperative, fractured, tired, almost impossible to control it. Private and political aspects are embedded in Celan’s poetry. He translated from Russian poets, also outcasts, also rejected by the native system; Celan turned to dispossession and exile. He was called a Jewish poet, always suffering for those imprisoned in the ghetto; Jews have their faith, which is a kind of guarantee for them, while the Christians, more lucky, have a life of their own. Celan’s linguistic experience proves to be a Jewish one, an experience inoculated by the traumatic death of his parents, over which he did not manage to overcome. He turns isolation and sufferance into his own remark, and he transmits it on the language level, into a significance of the chosen. Language is judged from a chronological approach; language has a meaning only rooted into a historical context, context that individualizes it, makes it popular and personal.

3. Emil Cioran – a mixed type

Also as Paul Celan, Emil Cioran grew up in a German-speaking context, in Rasinari, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Unlike Celan, he will not write in German, becoming famous for writing in French, language he had been striving for ten years to manage it almost accurately. His use of the adoptive language was rarely as harsh as his use of Romanian, but the latter offered resources of originality. Referring to his hard trial when learning French, Cioran wrote to devastate by language, to blow up the word and with it the world, language having again the best force to re-pattern the world, a decision-making instrument. But unlike Celan, who was multilingual, and molded the German language so as to squeeze it of all negative connotations and put them at work in the best samples of poetry, Cioran always denied his origin, the Romanian one, having loved to be whatever else but not Romanian: Hungarian, Jew, even gypsy, and speaking any language excepting the native one. When arriving at Paris, he will do his best to deny his Romanian past, not worshiping it as Eva Hoffman and others. He hated his youth because of his decision to enroll himself in the Iron Guard, decision, which would not have been approved by the West.

Emil Cioran effectively enrolled himself in the Iron Guard in November 1933. When he arrived in Germany in 1933, Cioran became enthusiastic about the German order, he militated for the involvement of the youngsters in politics, he sent articles to different reviews in the country, showing its revolutionary sentiment (to see România în faţa stăinătăţii, Impresii din Munchen. Hitler in conştiinţa germană, Revolta sătuilor). When back in the country he continued publishing articles which displayed the same kind of admiration; for example in În preajma dictaturii, he showed that the Iron Guard favored the heroic death, an aim which was turned by Cioran into a famous objective of his philosophical discourse. However, he admired the movement for its irrationality, never considering it a spiritual one. As apart from his generation, Cioran regarded liberalism as to be the saving solution for Romania, writing that Romania owed everything it had to the liberals, but he somehow motivated his esteem for nationalism by his interest in his country that could not be but revolutionary at that time, somehow in congruence with the European political context. After 1937, Cioran became even more involved in the political phenomenon; in Renunţarea la libertate he asked for the dictatorship to come, even if in 1937 he suddenly turned out to be engrossed in a religious crisis when writing Lacrimi şi sfinţi. In November 1937, he left for Paris, with a scholarship offered by the French Institute in Bucharest; in the autumn of 1940 he came back, when the Iron Guard was running the country and Romania was a national-legionary state, moment when he delivered a conference entitled Profilul interior al căpitanului at Radio Bucharest. He had also sent a volume of Schimbarea la faţă a României to Codreanu, hoping to please him, but Codreanu did not see in the book the revolutionary aspects he was looking for. From February 1941, when Cioran left Romania forever and until his death, he kept denying all his between wars political adhesions, accusing Nae Ionescu in Ţara mea for dragging the whole generation into politics. He would also modify parts of Schimbarea la faţă a României, especially those referring to his considerations to Jews and Hungarians.

From the moment he reaches France, he will never write in Romanian again, refusing even to speak Romanian. The books published in French were appreciated because of their style, a refined use of language. In fact, he exaggerated his detachment from Romania to such an extent that even his letters to his parents were written in French. In 1944, while trying to translate Mallarme into Romanian, Cioran discovered the intrinsic weakness of Romanian and the limitations his native language imposed on his creative expression, so he decided to write exclusively in French from then on. He rewrote his first book in French, A Short History of Decay, four times even after it was accepted by Gallimard. Cioran needed French to get rid of his depressing past experiences and to impose himself as a writer; unfortunately, Gallimard did not speak Romanian, but even if, Cioran would have probably use French, to dismiss his Romanian personality once dismissing his native language. No Romanian exiled has ever felt such hate towards his origins. For Cioran, language was a vivid organism, that is why one does not inhabit a country; one inhabits a language. That is our country, our fatherland – and no other.

Unlike Celan, the new language was a revelation to him, happy to ever get rid of the native one (as different from Eva Hoffman). The new language was a chance to survive; Eva Hoffman’s nostalgia and Celan’s melancholia were replaced by a feeling of relief, surprisingly, but relief, even happiness when starting building a new identity. In Cioran’s writing, language has its own independent status, creating a new reality, adjacent to the imposed one; essays and aphorisms focus on how language makes death, mystery, melancholy, religion, and love lucid of their action and existence, all under the suspicion that madness rules in a supposed ordered world.


FELSTINER, John, Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew, New Haven, 1995

HOFFMAN, Eva, Lost in Translation, Vintage, 1991

PETREU, Marta, Un trecut deocheat sau Schimbarea la faţă a României, Editura Institutului Cultural Român, 2004