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On the Heights of Despair

Translated and with an Introduction by Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston
Born of a terrible insomnia—"a dizzying lucidity which would turn even paradise into hell"—this book presents the youthful Cioran, a self-described "Nietzsche still complete with his Zarathustra, his poses, his mystical clown’s tricks, a whole circus of the heights."

On the Heights of Despair shows Cioran’s first grappling with themes he would return to in his mature works: despair and decay, absurdity and alienation, futility and the irrationality of existence. It also presents Cioran as a connoisseur of apocalypse, a theoretician of despair, for whom writing and philosophy both share the "lyrical virtues" that alone lead to a metaphysical revelation.

"No modern writer twists the knife with Cioran’s dexterity. . . . His writing . . . is informed with the bitterness of genuine compassion."—Bill Marx, Boston Phoenix

"The dark, existential despair of Romanian philosopher Cioran’s short meditations is paradoxically bracing and life-affirming. . . . Puts him in the company of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"This is self-pity as epigram, the sort of dyspeptic pronouncement that gets most people kicked out of bed but that has kept Mr. Cioran going for the rest of his life."—Judith Shulevitz, New York Times Book Review

150 pages | 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 | © 1992

Philosophy: General Philosophy

Table of Contents

Introduction: Imagining Cioran
On Being Lyrical
How Distant Everything Is!
On Not Wanting to Live
The Passion for the Absurd
The World and I
Weariness and Agony
Despair and the Grotesque
The Premonition of Madness
On Death
Nothing Is Important
The World in Which Nothing Is Solved
The Contradictory and the Inconsequential
On Sadness
Total Dissatisfaction
The Bath of Fire
On the Reality of the Body
I Do Not Know
On Individual and Cosmic Loneliness
The Monopoly of Suffering
Absolute Lyricism
The Meaning of Grace
The Vanity of Compassion
Eternity and Morality
Moment and Eternity
History and Eternity
Not to Be a Man Anymore
Magic and Fatality
Unimaginable Joy
The Ambiguity of Suffering
All Is Dust
Enthusiasm as a Form of Love
Light and Darkness
The Blessings of Insomnia
On the Transubstantiation of Love
Man, the Insomniac Animal
Truth, What a Word!
The Beauty of Flames
The Paucity of Wisdom
The Return to Chaos
Irony and Self-Irony
On Poverty
The Flight from the Cross
The Cult of Infinity
Transfiguration of Banality
The Burden of Sadness
Degradation through Work
The Sense of Endings
The Satanic Principle of Suffering
An Indirect Animal
Impossible Truth
Love in Brief
Nothing Matters
The Sources of Evil
Beauty’s Magic Tricks
Man’s Inconsistency
Facing Silence
The Double and His Art
E. M. Cioran: A Short Chronology

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