Author(s): E.M. CIORAN

Faber Modern Classics

"A Short History of Decay (1949)" is E. M. Cioran's nihilistic and witty collection of aphoristic essays concerning the nature of civilization in mid-twentieth-century Europe. Touching upon Man's need to worship, the feebleness of God, the downfall of the Ancient Greeks and the melancholy baseness of all existence, Cioran's pieces are pessimistic in the extreme, but also display a beautiful certainty that renders them delicate, vivid, and memorable. Illuminating and brutally honest, "A Short History of Decay" dissects Man's decadence in a remarkable series of moving and beautiful pieces.

Emil Cioran’s works display an extreme pessimism, even nihilism. He is the philosopher of personal and collective frailty and failure, of emptiness, of hopelessness, of the eschewing of all answers (“Having resisted the temptation to conclude, I have overcome the mind.”). He rails against society, against both choice and necessity, against all values. I thought I would like him more than I do. Perhaps it is that he trumpets his nihilism, that he shouts out the immanence of our demise from the event horizon of whatever black hole we are heading towards, that his pessimism is, above all, dramatic (does this call its authenticity into question? (I don’t think so)), that makes me tire of him (he should perhaps be read (by me, at least) in small doses). Our differences are perhaps more of temperament than of territory; to me the underlying nullity of existence is more irredeemable than tragic, and I am to a degree suspicious of the heroic trappings and lyricism of his despair. That said, Cioran is an important, interesting (and frequently amusing) thinker, an heir to Nietzsche, and there is much to admire (and be amused by) in his books. His words dissolve civilisation as acetone dissolves paint (that’s got to be a good thing). The contents page of this book reads like the publishing list of an American academic publisher (“Genealogy of Fanaticism – In the Graveyard of Definitions – Civilisation and Frivolity – Supremacy of the Adjective – Apotheosis of the Vague – The Reactionary Angels – Militant Mourning – Farewell to Philosophy – Obsession of the Essential” &c, &c) , and the book itself contains enough nihilistic aphorisms to fill a lifetime’s worth of anti-inspirational calendars (now, there’s a publishing project…), for example: “One is ‘civilised’ insofar as one does not proclaim one’s leprosy.” Great stuff. - Thomas


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To miss reading this book would be a deprivation Los Angeles Times This [series] is a wonderful idea ... They are absurdist parables, by turns hilarious, unsettling and enigmatic. -- Nicholas Lezard Guardian [The series] sheds remarkable light on the literature, culture and politics of the region...anyone coming fresh to the field will be captivated by the richness, variety, humour and pathos of a classic literature that, through a shared historical experience, transcends national and linguistic boundaries. -- Cj Schuler Independent on Sunday I urge you to go and read them. -- Adam Thirlwell New Statesman This new series of Central European Classics is important well beyond simply providing 'good reads'. -- Stephen Vizinczey Daily Telegraph

E. M. Cioran (1911-1995) was one of Central Europe's most remarkable philosophers, author of what William Gass called romances on 'alienation, absurdity, boredom, futility, decay, the tyranny of history, the vulgarities of change, awareness as agony, reason as disease'. A Romanian, he lived much of his life in Paris and many of his major works were written in French, including A Short History of Decay, The Trouble with Being Born and Drawn and Quartered.

General Fields

  • : 9780141192727
  • : PEN
  • : PEN
  • : 0.148
  • : May 2010
  • : 198mm X 129mm X 11mm
  • : United Kingdom
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : E.M. CIORAN
  • : BC
  • : 1
  • : 128
  • : 192