Emile Cioran

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Emil Cioran (8 April 1911 - 20 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 si Sfinti

  • 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 rest 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.


  • I'm simply an accident. Why take it all so seriously?
  • I have no nationality—the best possible status for an intellectual.
  • My idea, when I write a book, is to wake up someone, to fustigate him. Given that the books I have written arose from my malaises, not to mention my sufferings, it's exactly that that they should transmit in some form to the reader. A book should overturn everything, call everything into question.
  • “I wish I were a cannibal – less for the pleasure of eating someone than for the pleasure of vomiting him.”
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