By Maistre, Joseph Marie; Maistre, Joseph Marie; Cioran, Emile M
In this selection of essays and epigrams, E.M. Cioran provides us photos and evaluations—which he calls "admirations"—of Samuel Beckett, Jorge Luis Borges, F. Scott Fitzgerald, the poet Paul Valery, and Mircea Eliade, between others. In alternating sections of aphorisms—his "anathemas"—he gives you insights on such subject matters as solitude, flattery, vainness, friendship, insomnia, song, mortality, God, and the entice of disillusion.
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Others have been luckier: to them this occurred even before they began to philosophize. Apparently matter, jealous of life, seeks to discover its weak points and to punish its initiatives, its betrayals. For life is life only by infidelity to matter. I am distinct from all my sensations. I fail to understand how. I even fail to understand whose they are. Moreover, who is this I initiating the three propositions? I have just read a biography. The notion that all the figures it describes no longer exist except in this book strikes me as so intolerable that I have had to lie down to avoid a collapse.
Let us recall that the master had every quality of a founder of a sect, though disguised as a man of science. If he achieved cures, it was less by method than by faith. “Old age is the most unexpected thing of all that happens to man,” notes Trotsky a few years before his end. If, as a young man, he had had the exact, visceral intuition of this truth, what a miserable revolutionary he would have made! Noble deeds are possible only in periods when self-irony is not yet rife. It was his lot to fulfill himself only halfway.
To invent new words, according to Madame de Staël, is the “surest symptom of intellectual sterility,” The remark seems truer today than it was at the beginning of the last century. As early as 1649, Vaugelas decreed, “No one may create new words, not even the sovereign,” Let writers, and especially philosophers, ponder this ban even before they start thinking! We learn more in one white night than in a year of sleep. Practically speaking, the adoption of tobacco is much more instructive than any number of regular naps.