Famous Romanians: philosopher Emil Cioran, 'on the heights of despair'
Emil Cioran was a Romanian philosopher and essayist who became famous for his finely crafted essays and aphorisms dealing with alienation, boredom, futility and the decay of civilization. His works helped him become one of the greatest nihilistic philosophers of the 20th century.
By Alexandra Fodor
Emil Cioran was born in 1911 in Rasinari, a small village in Romania. At the age of 14, he was reading Diderot, Balzac, Tagore, the aphorist Lichtenberg, Dostoevsky, Flaubert, Schopenhauer and above all, Nietzsche.
He studied literature and philosophy at the University of Bucharest and in 1932, he received a BA in philosophy with a thesis on Bergson’s thoughts. From 1933 to the end of 1935 Cioran studied philosophy in Berlin with a grant from the Humboldt Foundation.
In 1933, he published his first book entitled “On the Heights of Despair”, which won the Prize of the Royal Academy for young writers. It was the first of only two literary prizes that Cioran did not reject. Read romania-insider.com's review of Cioran's 'On the heights if despair' here.
In 1937, Cioran went to Paris with a grant from the French Institute in Bucharest and after 1940, he moved there and began writing only in French. In 1949 Gallimard, the publishing company that came to publish the majority of his books published his first French book, “A Short History of Decay”. In 1950, the book won the Rivarol Prize.
Cioran’s works cover themes such as despair, death, loneliness, disease, suffering, the abyss, nothingness, anguish, agony, madness, and the absurd.
His major works includes book such as The Book of Delusions (1936), Tears and Saints (1937), The Temptation to Exist (1956), History and Utopia (1960), The fall into Time (1964), The Trouble With Being Born (1973), Anathemas and Admirations (1986-1987), The Passionate Handbook (1991).
Emil Cioran died on June 20, 1995 at the age of 84. He was buried in Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris, alongside other famous Romanian artists such as Constantin Brancusi and Eugen Ionescu. The same year Gallimard paid him homage by publishing his complete works in a single volume, "Oeuvres" ("Works").
In 2003, the Project Cioran was started; its aim is to promote the study of the life, work and influence of Cioran.
In 2007, Cioran was the main character of a Romanian play called “A Paris Loft with a View on Death” that was staged by Romanian and Luxembourgian actors. On May 2010, Emil Cioran’s book “A Short History of Decay” was part of the Penguin Books project entitled Ten extraordinary Central European Classics.