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Emil Cioran

Emil Cioran (Romanian pronunciation: [eˈmil t​͡ʃjoˈran]; April 8, 1911 – June 20, 1995) was a Romanian philosopher and essayist.


Early life

Cioran's house in Răşinari

Emil Cioran was born in Răşinari, Sibiu County, which was part of Austria-Hungary at the time. His father, Emilian Cioran, was a Romanian Orthodox priest, while his mother, Elvira Cioran (born Comaniciu), was originally from Veneţia de Jos, a commune near Făgăraş.

After studying humanities at the Gheorghe Lazăr High School in Sibiu (Hermannstadt), Cioran, aged 17, started to study philosophy at the University of Bucharest. Upon his entrance into the University, he met Eugène Ionesco and Mircea Eliade, the three of them becoming lifelong friends. Future Romanian philosopher Constantin Noica and future Romanian thinker Petre Ţuţea, became his closest colleagues for they all had Tudor Vianu and Nae Ionescu as their professors. Cioran, Eliade, and Ţuţea became supporters of the ideas that their philosophy professor, Nae Ionescu, had become a fervent advocate of – a tendency deemed Trăirism, which fused Existentialism with ideas common in various forms of Fascism.

Cioran had a good command of German. His first studies revolved around Immanuel Kant, Arthur Schopenhauer, and especially Friedrich Nietzsche. He became an agnostic, taking as an axiom "the inconvenience of existence". During his studies at the University he was also influenced by the works of Georg Simmel, Ludwig Klages and Martin Heidegger, but also by the Russian philosopher Lev Shestov, who added the belief that life is arbitrary to Cioran’s central system of thought. He then graduated with a thesis on Henri Bergson (however, Cioran later rejected Bergson, claiming the latter did not comprehend the tragedy of life).



Berlin and Romania

In 1933, he obtained a scholarship to the University of Berlin, where he came into contact with Klages and Nicolai Hartmann. While in Berlin, he became interested in measures taken by the Nazi regime, contributed a column to Vremea dealing with the topic (in which Cioran confessed that "there is no present-day politician that I see as more sympathetic and admirable than Hitler",[1] while expressing his approval for the Night of the Long Knives — "what has humanity lost if the lives of a few imbeciles were taken"),[2] and, in a letter written to Petru Comarnescu, described himself as "a Hitlerist".[3] He held similar views about Italian fascism, welcoming victories in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, arguing that: "Fascism is a shock, without which Italy is a compromise comparable to today's Romania".[4]

Cioran’s first book, On the Heights of Despair (more accurately translated: "On the Summits of Despair"), was published in Romania in 1934. It was awarded the Commission’s Prize and the Young Writers Prize for one of the best books written by an unpublished young writer. Successively, The Book of Delusions (1935), The Transfiguration of Romania (1936), and Tears and Saints (1937), were also published in Romania (the first two titles have yet to be translated into English).

Although Cioran was never a member of the group, it was during this time in Romania that he began taking an interest in the ideas put forth by the Iron Guard - a far right organization whose nationalist ideology he supported until the early years of World War II, despite allegedly disapproving of their violent methods.

Cioran censored The Transfiguration of Romania in its second edition released in the 1990s; he eliminated numerous passages considered extremist or "pretentious and stupid". The volume expressed sympathy for totalitarianism,[5] a view which was also present in various articles Cioran wrote at the time,[6] and which aimed to establish "urbanization and industrialization" as "the two obsessions of a rising people".[7] Marta Petreu's An Infamous Past: E.M. Cioran and the Rise of Fascism in Romania, published in English in 2005, gives an in-depth analysis of The Transfiguration.

His early call for modernization was, however, hard to reconcile with the traditionalism of the Iron Guard.[8] In 1934, he wrote: "I find that in Romania the sole fertile, creative, and invigorating nationalism can only be one which does not just dismiss tradition, but also denies and defeats it".[9] Disapproval of what he viewed as specifically Romanian traits had been present in his works ("In any maxim, in any proverb, in any reflection, our people expresses the same shyness in front of life, the same hesitation and resignation... [...] Everyday Romanian [truisms] are dumbfounding."),[10] which led to criticism from the far right Gândirea (its editor, Nichifor Crainic, had called The Transfiguration of Romania "a bloody, merciless, massacre of today's Romania, without even [the fear] of matricide and sacrilege"),[11] as well as from various Iron Guard papers.[12]


After coming back from Berlin (1936), Cioran taught philosophy at the "Andrei Şaguna" high school in Braşov for a year. In 1937, he left for Paris with a scholarship from the French Institute of Bucharest, which was then prolonged until 1944. After a short stay in his home country (November 1940-February 1941), Cioran never returned again. This last period in Romania was the one in which he exhibited a closer relationship with the Iron Guard, which had, by then, taken power (see National Legionary State) — on November 28, he recorded a speech for the state-owned Romanian Radio, one centered on the portrait of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, former leader of the movement, who had been killed two years before (praising him and the Guard for, among other things, "having given Romanians a purpose").[13]

He later renounced not only his support for the Iron Guard, but also their nationalist ideas, and frequently expressed regret and repentance for his emotional implication in it. For example, in a 1972 interview, he condemned it as "a complex of movements; more than this, a demented sect and a party", and avowed: "I found out then [...] what it means to be carried by the wave without the faintest trace of conviction. [...] I am now immune to it".[14]

In 1940, he started writing The Passionate Handbook, and finished it by 1945. It was to be the last book that he would write in Romanian, although not the last to deal with delicate and lyrical aphorisms demented by infinite pessimism.

The tomb of Cioran and Simone Boué

1937 witnessed Cioran’s departure for France with a scholarship from the French Institute of Bucharest. From the moment of his departure, Cioran only published books in French (all were appreciated not only because of their content, but also because of their style which was full of lyricism and fine use of the language).

In 1949 his first French book, A Short History of Decay, was published by Gallimard – the publishing company which came to publish the majority of his books later on – and was awarded the Rivarol Prize in 1950. Later on, Cioran refused every literary prize with which he was presented.

The Latin Quarter of Paris became Cioran’s permanent residence. He lived most of his life in isolation, avoiding the public. Yet, he still maintained numerous friends with which he conversed often such as Mircea Eliade, Eugène Ionesco, Paul Celan, Samuel Beckett, and Henri Michaux.

He is buried at the Montparnasse Cemetery.

Major themes and style

Exhausting his interest for conservative philosophy early in his youth, Cioran denounced systematic thought and abstract speculation in favor of indulgence in personal reflection and passionate lyricism. "I’ve invented nothing; I’ve simply been the secretary of my sensations", he later claimed.

Pessimism characterizes all of his works, which many critics trace back to events of his childhood (in 1935 his mother is reputed to have told him that if she had known he was going to be so unhappy she would have aborted him). However, Cioran's pessimism (in fact, his skepticism, even nihilism) remains both inexhaustible and, in its own particular manner, joyful; it is not the sort of pessimism which can be traced back to simple origins, single origins themselves being questionable. When Cioran's mother spoke to him of abortion, he confessed that it did not disturb him, but made an extraordinary impression which led to an insight about the nature of existence ("I'm simply an accident. Why take it all so seriously?" is what he later said in reference to the incident).

His works often depict an atmosphere of torment and torture, states that Cioran experienced, and came to be dominated by lyricism often prone to expressing violent feelings. The books he wrote in Romanian are best identified with this characteristic. Preoccupied with the problem of death and suffering, he was attracted to the idea of suicide, believing it to be an idea that could help one go on living, an idea which he fully explored in On the Heights of Despair. He revisits suicide in depth in The New Gods, which contains a section of aphorisms devoted to the subject. The theme of human alienation, the most prominent existentialist theme, presented by Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, is thus formulated, in 1932, by young Cioran: "Is it possible that existence is our exile and nothingness our home?"

Cioran’s works encompass many other themes as well: original sin, the tragic sense of history, the end of civilization, the refusal of consolation through faith, the obsession with the absolute, life as an expression of man's metaphysical exile, etc. He was a thinker passionate about history; widely reading the writers that were associated with the period of "decadent". One of these writers was Oswald Spengler who influenced Cioran's political philosophy in that he offered Gnostic reflections on the destiny of man and civilization. According to Cioran, as long as man has kept in touch with his origins and hasn't cut himself off from himself, he has resisted decadence. Today, he is on his way to his own destruction through self-objectification, impeccable production and reproduction, excess of self-analysis and transparency, and artificial triumph.

Regarding God, Cioran has noted that "without Bach, God would be a complete second rate figure" and that "Bach's music is the only argument proving the creation of the Universe can not be regarded a complete failure".[15]

William H. Gass called Cioran's work "a philosophical romance on the modern themes of alienation, absurdity, boredom, futility, decay, the tyranny of history, the vulgarities of change, awareness as agony, reason as disease".

Rather ironically, Cioran became famous while writing in French, a language with which he had struggled since youth. His use of the adopted language was seldom as harsh as his use of Romanian, while the latter offered resources of originality in tone.


After the death of Simone Boué, Cioran’s companion for most of his life, a series of manuscripts (over 30 notebooks) written by Cioran were found in their apartment by a manager who tried, in 2005, to auction them.

However, a decision made by the Court of Appeal of Paris stopped their commercialization; the trial is still taking place in France. Amid the manuscripts, which were mainly drafts of works that had already been published, an unedited journal was found which encompassed his life after 1972 (the year in which his Notebooks end). The document is of major interest to readers and editors, and is probably Cioran’s last unpublished work.

An aged Cioran is the main character in a play by Romanian dramatist-actor Matei Vişniec, Mansardă la Paris cu vedere spre moarte ("A Paris Loft with a View on Death"). The play, depicting an imaginary meeting between Vişniec and Emil Cioran,[16] was first brought to the stage in 2007, under the direction of Radu Afrim and with a cast of Romanian and Luxembourgian actors; Cioran was played by Constantin Cojocaru.[17] Stagings were organized in the Romanian city of Sibiu[16][17] and in the Luxembourg, at Esch-sur-Alzette (both Sibiu and Luxembourg City were the year's European Capital of Culture).[16]

Major works


  • Pe culmile disperării (literally On the Summits of Despair; translated "On the Heights of Despair"), Editura "Fundaţia pentru Literatură şi Artă", Bucharest 1934
  • Cartea amăgirilor ("The Book of Delusions”), Bucharest 1936
  • Schimbarea la faţă a României ("The Transfiguration of Romania”), Bucharest 1936
  • Lacrimi şi Sfinţi ("Tears and Saints"), "Editura autorului" 1937
  • Îndreptar pătimaş ("The Passionate Handbook”) , Humanitas, Bucharest 1991


  • Mon pays/Ţara mea ("My country”, written in French, the book was first published in Romania in a bilingual volume), Humanitas, Bucharest, 1996
  • Précis de décomposition ("A Short History of Decay"), Gallimard 1949
  • Syllogismes de l'amertume (tr. "All Gall Is Divided"), Gallimard 1952
  • La tentation d'exister ("The Temptation to Exist"), Gallimard 1956 English edition: ISBN 0-226-10675-6
  • Histoire et utopie ("History and Utopia"), Gallimard 1960
  • La chute dans le temps ("The Fall into Time"), Gallimard 1964
  • Le mauvais démiurge (literally The Poor Demiurge; tr. "The New Gods"), Gallimard 1969
  • De l'inconvénient d'être né ("The Trouble With Being Born"), Gallimard 1973
  • Écartèlement (tr. "Drawn and Quartered"), Gallimard 1979
  • Exercices d'admiration 1986, and Aveux et anathèmes 1987 (tr. and grouped as "Anathemas and Admirations")
  • Cahiers ("Notebooks"), Gallimard 1997
  • Œuvres (Collected works), Gallimard-Quatro 1995
  • Des larmes et des saints , L'Herne
  • Sur les cimes du désespoir, L'Herne,
  • Le crépuscule des pensées, L'Herne,
  • Jadis et naguère, L'Herne
  • Valéry face à ses idoles, L'Herne, 1970, 2006
  • De la France, L’Herne, 2009
  • Transfiguration de la Roumanie, L’Herne, 2009
  • Cahier Cioran, L’Herne, 2009 (Several unpublished documents, letters and photographies).

See also


  1. ^ Cioran, 1933, in Ornea, p.191
  2. ^ Cioran, 1934, in Ornea, p.192
  3. ^ Cioran, 1933, in Ornea, p.190
  4. ^ Cioran, 1936, in Ornea, p.192
  5. ^ Ornea, p.40
  6. ^ Ornea, p.50-52, 98
  7. ^ Cioran, in Ornea, p.98
  8. ^ Ornea, p.127, 130, 137-141
  9. ^ Cioran, 1934, in Ornea, p.127
  10. ^ Cioran, 1936, in Ornea, p.141
  11. ^ Crainic, 1937, in Ornea, p.143
  12. ^ Ornea, p.143-144
  13. ^ Cioran, 1940, in Ornea, p.197
  14. ^ Cioran, 1972, in Ornea, p.198
  15. ^ Cioran, December 4, 1989, in Newsweek
  16. ^ a b c (Romanian) "Teatru românesc în Luxemburg", at; retrieved November 15, 2007
  17. ^ a b Ioan T. Morar, "Cronică de lângă teatre. A făcut Emil Cioran karate?", in Academia Caţavencu, 45/2007, p.30


  • Ornea, Z. (1995). Anii treizeci. Extrema dreaptă românească. Bucharest: Fundaţiei Culturale Române. ISBN 973915543X. OCLC 33346781.  

External links

  • - Project Cioran: texts, interviews, multimedia, links.


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Emile Cioran article)

From Wikiquote

All my life, I have lived with the feeling that I have been kept from my true place. If the expression "metaphysical exile" had no meaning, my existence alone would afford it one.

Emil Cioran (8 April 191120 June 1995) was a Romanian writer, noted for his somber works in the French language; known in French as Émile Cioran.



All Gall Is Divided

French title: Syllogismes de l'amertume
  • The desire to die was my one and only concern; to it I have sacrificed everything, even death. (p.74)
  • We cannot sufficiently blame the nineteenth century for having favored that breed of glossators, those reading machines, that deformation of the mind incarnated by the Professor — symbol of a civilization's decline, of the corruption of taste, of the supremacy of labor over whim. To see everything from the outside, to systematize the ineffable, to consider nothing straight on, to inventory the views of others! All commentary on a work is bad or futile, for whatever is not direct is null. There was a time when the professors chose to pursue theology. At least they had the excuse then of professing the absolute, of limiting themselves to God, whereas in our century nothing escapes their lethal competence.

Tears and Saints (1937)

Romanian title: Lacrimi şi Sfinţi
  • Consciousness is nature's nightmare. (p.102)

Drawn and Quartered (1983)

French title: Écartelèment
  • What to think of other people? I ask myself this question each time I make a new acquaintance. So strange does it seem to me that we exist, and that we consent to exist.
  • Existing is plagiarism.
  • 'Every time I think of Christ's crucifixion, I commit the sin of envy.' — I love Simone Weil when she vies with the greatest saints for pride.
  • In this dream, I was flattering someone I despise. Waking, a greater self-loathing than if I had really committed such vileness...
  • True moral elegance consists in the art of disguising one's victories as defeats.
  • We must censure the later Nietzsche for a panting excess in the writing, the absence of rests.
  • What a pity that 'nothingness' has been devalued by an abuse of it made by philosophers unworthy of it!
  • A self-respecting man is a man without a country. A fatherland is birdlime...
  • Illusion begets and sustains the world; we do not destroy one without destroying the other. Which is what I do every day. An apparently ineffectual operation, since I must begin all over again the next day.

A Short History of Decay (1949)

French title: Précis de décomposition
  • If our fellow men could be aware of our opinions about them, love, friendship, and devotion would be forever erased from the dictionaries; and if we had the courage to confront the doubts we timidly conceive about ourselves, none of us would utter an 'I' without shame. (p.105)
  • Society : an inferno of saviors.
  • I feel safer with a Pyrrho than with a St. Paul.
  • In every man sleeps a prophet, and when he wakes there is a little more evil in the world.
  • What surrounds us we endure better for giving it a name — and moving on.
  • Ideas should be neutral. But man animates them with his passions and folly. Impure and turned into beliefs, they take on the appearance of reality. The passage from logic is consummated. Thus are born ideologies, doctrines, and bloody farce.
  • Under each formula lies a corpse.
  • Life inspires more dread than death — it is life which is the great unknown.
  • We change ideas like neckties.
  • Ennui is the echo in us of time tearing itself apart.
  • Reality is a creation of our excesses.
  • Life creates itself in delirium and is undone in ennui.
  • Each of us is born with a share of purity, predestined to be corrupted by our commerce with mankind, by that sin against solitude.
  • We die in proportion to the words we fling around us.
  • Anyone who speaks in the name of others is always an impostor.
  • Life is merely a fracas on an unmapped terrain, and the universe a geometry stricken with epilepsy.
  • Life is possible only by the deficiencies of our imagination and memory.
  • Chaos is rejecting all you have learned. Chaos is being yourself.
  • Man starts over again everyday, in spite of all he knows, against all he knows.
  • By all evidence we are in the world to do nothing.
  • Philosophy: impersonal anxiety; refuge among anemic ideas.
  • We define only out of despair, we must have a formula... to give a facade to the void.
  • Nothing proves that we are more than nothing.
  • We are afraid of the enormity of the possible.
  • So long as man is protected by madness, he functions, and flourishes.
  • The universal view melts things into a blur.
  • Truths begin by a conflict with the police — and end by calling them in.
  • Everything is pathology, except for indifference.
  • Intelligence flourishes only in the ages when belief withers.
  • To Live signifies to believe and hope — to lie and to lie to oneself.
  • We interest others by the misfortune we spread around us.
  • It is because we are all impostors that we endure each other.
  • When we cannot be delivered from ourselves, we delight in devouring ourselves.
  • Basis of society: anonymous sweat.
  • Vague a l'ame - melancholy yearning for the end of the world.
  • The curtain of the universe is moth-eaten, and through its holes we see nothing now but mask and ghost.
  • Society is not a disease, it is a disaster. What a stupid miracle that one can live in it.
  • Espousing the melancholy of ancient symbols, I would have freed myself; I would have shared the dignity of the abandoned gods, defending them against the insidious crosses, the invasion of servants and martyrs, and would have spent my nights seeking repose in the dementia and debauchery of the Caesars. As an expert in disenchantment, I would have riddled the new zeals with all the arrows of dissolute wisdom – with courtesans, in skeptical brothels, or in circuses with lavish forms of cruelty. I would have filled my thinking with vice and blood to stretch logic to unheard of dimensions, as large as worlds that are dying.

History & Utopia (1960)

French title: Histoire et utopie
  • Pursued by our origins…we all are.
  • Romanian Language: a mixture of sun and dung with all its nostalgic ugliness, language of an accession to disaster.
  • If a man has not, by the time he is 30, yielded to the fascination of every form of extremism, I don't know if he is to be admired or scorned — a saint or a corpse.
  • To live... in any sense of the word... is to reject others; to accept them, one must renounce, do oneself violence.
  • Tolerance - the function of an extinguished ardor - tolerance cannot seduce the young.
  • What every man who loves his country hopes for in his inmost heart: the suppression of half his compatriots.
  • ...Not to be obliged, like so many others, to choose between the insipid and the atrocious.
  • Glory — once achieved, what is it worth?
  • What does the future, that half of time, matter to the man who is infatuated with eternity?
  • Who Rebels? Who rises in arms? Rarely the slave, but almost always the oppressor turned slave.
  • Hungarian Language — savage it may be but of a beauty that has nothing human about it, with sonorities of another universe, powerful and corrosive, appropriate to prayer, to groans and to tears, risen out of hell to perpetuate its accent and its aura…words of nectar and cyanide.
  • It is an understatement to say that in this society injustices abound: in truth, it is itself the quintessence of injustice.
  • Freedom can be manifested only in the void of beliefs, in the absence of axioms, and only where the laws have no more authority than a hypothesis.
  • No one can enjoy freedom without trembling.
  • For you who no longer posses it, freedom is everything, for us who do, it is merely an illusion.
  • The "west" — what curse has fallen upon it that at the term of its trajectory it produces only these businessmen, these shopkeepers, these racketeers with their blank stares and atrophied smiles... is it with such vermin as this that a civilization so delicate and so complex must come to an end?
  • Never to have occasion to take a position, to make up one's mind, or to define oneself — there is no wish I make more often.
  • I seem to myself, among civilized men, an intruder, a troglodyte enamored of decrepitude, plunged into subversive prayers.
  • Our works, whatever they may be, derive from our incapacity to kill or to kill ourselves.
  • A distant enemy is always preferable to one at the gate.
  • Schisms and heresies are nationalisms in disguise.
  • Nothing is so wearing as the possession or abuse of liberty.
  • A people represents not so much an aggregate of ideas and theories as of obsessions.
  • A marvel that has nothing to offer, democracy is at once a nation's paradise and its tomb.
  • One hardly saves a world without ruling it.
  • Jealousy — that jumble of secret worship and ostensible aversion.
  • Russia — immensity and suffocation.
  • Mind, even more deadly to empires than to individuals, erodes them, compromises their solidity.
  • Balkans — that taste for devastation, for internal clutter, for a universe like a brothel on fire... the last "primitives" in Europe.
  • I foresee the day when we shall read nothing but telegrams and prayers.
  • Ambition is a drug that makes its addicts potential madmen.
  • Woes and wonders of power, that tonic hell, synthesis of poison and panacea.
  • In order to have the stuff of a tyrant, a certain mental derangement is necessary.
  • We are born to exist, not to know, to be, not to assert ourselves.
  • Knowledge, having irritated and stimulated our appetite for power, will lead us inexorably to our ruin.
  • Each of us must pay for the slightest damage he inflicts upon a universe created for indifference and stagnation, sooner or later, he will regret not having left it intact.
  • To venture upon an undertaking of any kind, even the most insignificant, is to sacrifice to envy.
  • Crime in full glory consolidates authority by the sacred fear it inspires.
  • If, at the limit, you can rule without crime, you cannot do so without injustices.
  • In a republic, that paradise of debility, the politician is a petty tyrant who obeys the laws.
  • The more intense a spiritual leader's appetite for power, the more he is concerned to limit it to others.
  • Tragic paradox of freedom: the mediocre men who alone make its exercise possible cannot guarantee its duration.
  • To devastate by language, to blow up the word and with it the world.
  • Tyranny is just what one can develop a taste for, since it so happens that man prefers to wallow in fear rather than to face the anguish of being himself.
  • To Foreswear vengeance is to chain oneself to forgiveness, to flounder in pardon, to be tainted by the hatred smothered within.
  • Word - that invisible dagger.
  • Revenge is not always sweet, once it is consummated we feel inferior to our victim.
  • Wherever we go, we come up against the human, a repulsive ubiquity before which we fall into stupor and revolt, a perplexity on fire.
  • Maniacs of Procreation, bipeds with devalued faces, we have lost all appeal for each other.
  • The multiplication of our kind borders on the obscene; the duty to love them, on the preposterous.
  • Knowledge subverts love: in proportion as we penetrate our secrets, we come to loathe our kind, precisely because they resemble us.
  • Were we to undertake an exhaustive self-scrutiny, disgust would paralyze us, we would be doomed to a thankless existence.
  • The more we try to wrest ourselves from our ego, the deeper we sink into it.
  • What is pity but the vice of kindness.
  • To think is to take a cunning revenge in which we camouflage our baseness and conceal our lower instincts.
  • In most cases we attach ourselves to God in order to take revenge on life, to punish it, to signify we can do without it, that we have found something better, and we also attach ourselves to God in horror of men.
  • We understand God by everything in ourselves that is fragmentary, incomplete, and inopportune.
  • On Creating - What we crave, what we want to see in others eyes, is that servile expression, an unconcealed infatuation with our gestures.
  • Skepticism is the sadism of embittered souls.
  • Whenever I happen to be in a city of any size, I marvel that riots do not break out everyday: Massacres, unspeakable carnage, a doomsday chaos. How can so many human beings coexist in a space so confined without hating each other to death?
  • Utopia is a mixture of childish rationalism and secularized angelism.
  • That history just unfolds, independently of a specified direction, of a goal, no one is willing to admit.
  • A great step forward was made the day men understood that in order to torment one another more efficiently they would have to gather together, to organize themselves into a society.
  • What pride to discover that nothing belongs to you — what a revelation.
  • To act is to anchor in the imminent future.
  • Isn't history ultimately the result of our fear of boredom?
  • We are all secularized anarchists today.

The Trouble With Being Born (1973)

French title: De l'inconvénient d'être né
  • To have committed every crime but that of being a father.
  • Unlike Job, I have not cursed the day I was born; all the other days, on the contrary, I have covered with my anathemas...
  • I long to be free — desperately free. Free as the stillborn are free.
  • Where are my sensations? They have melted into... me, and what is this me, this self, but the sum of these evaporated sensations?
  • Lucidity is the only vice which makes us free — free in a desert.
  • We cannot consent to be judged by someone who has suffered less than ourselves. And since each of us regards himself as an unrecognized Job...
  • What to do? Where to go? Do nothing and go nowhere, easy enough.
  • Some have misfortunes; others, obsessions. Which are worse off?
  • What is that one crucifixion compared to the daily kind any insomniac endures?
  • I do not forgive myself for being born. It is as if creeping into this world, I had profaned a mystery, betrayed some momentous pledge, committed a fault of nameless gravity. Yet in a less assured mood, birth seems a calamity I would be miserable not having known
  • For a long time — always, in fact — I have known that life here on earth is not what I needed and that I wasn't able to deal with it; for this reason and for this reason alone, I have acquired a touch of spiritual pride, so that my existence seems to me the degradation and the erosion of a psalm.
  • There was a time when time did not yet exist... The rejection of birth is nothing but the nostalgia for this time before time.
  • He who hates himself is not humble.
  • The feeling of being the thousand years behind, or ahead, of the others, of belonging to the beginnings or to the end of humanity...
  • It's not worth the bother of killing yourself, since you always kill yourself too late.
  • When you know quite absolutely that everything is unreal, you then cannot see why you should take the trouble to prove it.
  • Characteristic of sickness: to stay awake when everything sleeps, when everything is at rest, even the sick man.
  • I never met one interesting mind that was not richly endowed with inadmissible deficiencies.
  • To claim you are more detached, more alien to everything than anyone, and to be merely a fanatic of indifference!
  • What are you waiting for in order to give up?
  • No one is responsible for what he is nor even for what he does. This is obvious and everyone more or less agrees that it is so. Then why celebrate or denigrate? Because to exist is to evaluate, to emit judgments, and because abstention, when it is not the effect of apathy or cowardice, requires an effort no one manages to make.
  • There is no limit to suffering.
  • After a sleepless night, the people in the street seem automatons. No one seems to breathe, to walk, Each looks as if he is worked by clockwork: nothing spontaneous; mechanical smiles, spectral gesticulations. Yourself a specter, how would you see others as alive?
  • A man who fears ridicule will never go far, for good or ill: he remains on this side of this talents, and even if he has genius, he is doomed to mediocrity.
  • Only what has been conceived in solitude, face to face with God, endures - whether one is a believer or not.
  • We must learn how to explode! Any disease is healthier than the one provoked by a hoarded rage.
  • We must suffer to the end, to the moment when we stop believing in suffering
  • Won over by solitude, yet he remains in the world: a stylite without a pillar.
  • "You were wrong to count on me." Who can speak in terms? God and the Failure.
  • All my life, I have lived with the feeling that I have been kept from my true place. If the expression "metaphysical exile" had no meaning, my existence alone would afford it one.
  • A phantom cannot be cured, still less an enlightened mind. We can only cure those who belong to the earth and still have their roots in it, however superficial.
  • I pride myself on my capacity to perceive the transitory character of everything. An odd gift which has spoiled all my joys; better: all my sensations.
  • A relief bordering on orgasm at the notion that one will never again embrace a cause, any cause...
  • When you know yourself well and do not despise yourself utterly, it is because you are too exhausted to indulge in extreme feelings.
  • An impostor, a "humbug," conscious of being so and therefore a self-spectator, is necessarily more advanced in knowledge than a steady mind full of merits and all of a piece.
  • No longer wanting to be a man…dreaming of another form of failure.
  • Nothing is tragic. Everything is unreal.
  • Everything turn on pain; the rest is accessory, even nonexistent, for we remember only what hurts. Painful sensations being the only real ones, it is virtually useless to experience others.
  • I feel I am free but I know I am not.
  • If I have been able to hold out till now, it is because each blow, which seemed intolerable at the time, was followed by a second which was worse, then a third, and so on. If I were in hell, I'd want its circles to multiply, in order to count on a new ordeal, more trying than its predecessor. A salutary policy, with regard to torments at least.
  • We had nothing to say to one another, and while I was manufacturing my phrases I felt that earth was falling through space and that I was falling with it at a speed that made me dizzy.
  • Years and years to waken from that sleep in which the others loll; then years and years to scape that awakening...
  • When we discern the unreality of everything, we ourselves become unreal, we begin to survive ourselves, however powerful our vitality, however imperious our instincts. But they are no longer anything but false instincts, and false vitality.
  • The problem of responsibility would have a meaning only if we had been consulted before our birth and had consented to be precisely who we are.
  • The sole means of protecting your solitude is to offend everyone, beginning with those you love.
  • My merit is not to be totally ineffectual but to have wanted to be.
  • Man is a robot with defects.
  • Trees are massacred, houses go up - faces, faces everywhere. Man is spreading. Man is the cancer of the earth.
  • Each time I think of the essential, I seem to glimpse it in silence or explosion, in stupor or exclamation. Never in speech.
  • The appetite for torment is for some what the lure of gain is for others.
  • Man started out on the wrong foot. the misadventure in paradise was the first consequence. The rest had to follow.
  • God: a disease we imagine we are cured of because no one dies of it nowadays.
  • I have never taken myself for a being. A non-citizen, a marginal type, a nothing who exists only by the excess, by the superabundance of his nothingness.
  • A golden rule: to leave an incomplete image of oneself...
  • For the man who has got in the nasty habit of unmasking appearances, event and misunderstanding are synonyms. To make for the essential is to throw up the game, to admit one is defeated.
  • Having destroyed all my connections, burned my bridges, I should feel a certain freedom, and in fact I do. One so intense I am afraid to rejoice in it.
  • Everything is deception - I've always known that. Yet this certitude has afforded me no relief, except at the moments when it was violently present to my mind...
  • The only way of enduring one disaster after the next is to love the very idea of disaster: if we succeed, there are no further surprises, we are superior to whatever occurs, we are invincible victims.
  • One cannot live without motives. I have no motives left, and I am living.
  • My weaknesses have spoiled my existence, but it is thanks to them that I exist, that I imagine I exist
  • Getting up in the middle of the night, I walked around my room with the certainty of being chosen and criminal, a double privilege natural to the sleepless, revolting or incomprehensible for the captives of daytime logic.

Anatheamas and Admirations

  • On n'habite pas un pays, on habite une langue.
    • We inhabit a language rather than a country.
    • One doesn't live in a country, one lives in a language."
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