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Main page » Non-Fiction » On the Heights of Despair

On the Heights of Despair



The dark, existential despair of Romanian philosopher Cioran's short meditations is paradoxically bracing and life-affirming. Written in 1934, when he was 22 and desperately insomniac, this feverishly lyrical, at times slyly humorous confessional outpouring reveals Cioran as an angry young man in morally decaying Europe--a far cry from the elegant, curt stylist of his later books. Here Cioran rails at life's irrationality and absurdities; embraces solitude, melancholy and the awareness of death; and breathes organic vitality into the great philosophical themes of truth, eternity, beauty, suffering and good and evil. After one separates mature wheat from adolescent chaff, Cioran's early philosophical prose, like his later works, puts him in the company of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. In the enriching introduction, Zarifopol-Johnston, who met the thinker in his modest Paris flat, described this book as "a substitute for suicide and . . . its cure."


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.

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Tags: Cioran, solitude, embraces, melancholy, death, Heights, Despair, Europe, elegant