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On the Heights of Despair by E. M. Cioran
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On the Heights of Despair (1934)

by E. M. Cioran

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This is my first exposure to Cioran, and he has enough of an arresting style that I plan to check out more of his books. The adolescent despair on display here charmed me for a while, but by the end of the (quite short) book I was getting tired of it. I did find Cioran to be compulsively readable and adorably misanthropic, and I look forward to reading some of his more mature work. ( )
  breadhat | Jul 23, 2013 |
What a waste of a good prose style! Cioran is a repetitive farting windbag of nihilism and misanthropy. I've been through too much suffering to be a nihilist anymore.

I could not even recommend this to angsty adolescents to distract them from misinterpreting Nietzsche. Those who might truly sympathize with it are those who have undergone major depression, and to give them a work so encouraging of death would be an act of criminal negligence. Perhaps in its own circumventing way, this book affirms one's personal meaning for existence. ( )
1 vote HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
Titled aphorisms, with "Introduction: Imagining Cioran" by the brilliant translator. ( )
  keylawk | Dec 30, 2012 |
Emil Cioran's On the Heights of Despair is the writings--and ravings--of a desperate insomniac. Published in his native Romania when the author was only 23, it consists of brief essays, no more than six pages in length and sometimes only a paragraph. The overall theme is one of abject nihilism, but there are numerous inconsistencies. This is by no means a well-thought-out system of philosophy, but rather the spontaneous writings of an intelligent but distressed young man.

The titles of many of the essays reflect the likelihood that the author was teetering on the brink of suicide: "On Not Wanting to Live," "On Death," "Not to Be a Man Anymore," and "All Is Dust." Time and again he asserts that life has no meaning, that he yearns to return to nothingness, and that he wishes the world would just end. He rejects any form of ambition or aspiration, including Nietzsche's "superman," yet describes himself at one point in god-like terms as "the most monstrous being in history, the beast of the apocalypse." He disdains charity and compassion in one piece, but in other essays Cioran speaks hopefully of love and ecstasy. At times his advice is pure hedonism: Ignore the future, reject any idea of right and wrong, and just do what feels good.

For all its adolescent hyperbole and ego, On the Heights of Despair is written with a remarkable combination of beauty and clarity. Each essay is concise, incisive and well-focused, even though he may weaken his point a few chapters later with an equally uncompromising assertion in another direction. For the resilient reader, this is a fascinating and occasionally thoughtful little book. ( )
6 vote StevenTX | May 2, 2011 |
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Perché non possiamo restare chiusi in noi stessi?
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0226106713, Paperback)

Imagine walking across a tightrope suspended high in the summer air above a bay flooded in the mauve glow of sunset, the music of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" surrounding you. Now imagine the tightrope is actually razor-wire, and gusts of wind challenge every tortuous step into sublime infinity. This is the paradox of emotions one feels when reading On the Heights of Despair, the paradigmatic cry of the tortured artist whose explosive intensity of passion is equaled only by the profundity of his despair. In this hauntingly lyrical meditation on darkness, stemming from a sustained insomniac hyper-lucidity, E. M. Cioran cries out a devastating nihilism that is in the end betrayed by his own intransigent lust for being. Compels reading and rereading.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:45:59 -0400)

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