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- Published on Amazon.com
I first came across Cioran by reading "On the Heights of Despair" in college. I loved it. I felt like for the first time I was encountering someone who also had a bad penchant for cosmic pessimism. It was cathartic to read angst-ridden rants while being depressed over Heidegger's Being and Time. So, I read several of Cioran's other books. Not as biting, but I was still interested and wanted to learn more. At the time, I started researching the "conservative revolutionaries" of the 1930s -- thinkers like Heidegger, Carl Schmitt, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, Stefan George, Ernst Jünger, et al., and I started to notice some affinities between the themes in Cioran and these thinkers. Eventually the darkness got a bit annoying and started to seem really hackneyed. It eventually clicked: yeah, Cioran basically makes all the same points as the fascists. He goes on and on about how mythos and emotion and irrational drives trump reason or logos, how the nation must come first and have an imperialist drive to crush other nations, how sacrifice for a higher cause is awesome, and all the other clichés. I started to get really annoyed by the way he refuses to actually dig into a subject and reflect on it, but usually only offers fleeting metaphors and parables. Some say this is great style, but it hardly helps get to the core of any subject.
So, eventually I came across Marta Petreu's book and decided to check it out.
On the one hand, this book certainly points out Cioran's right-wing affinities. However, the author constantly fails to really get what the essence of nationalism, fascism, or anti-Semitism is about. Instead, one gets these tepid attempts to claim that Cioran was "subtle" and "not really an anti-Semite." The killer evidence is that, to paraphrase, "Cioran, even though he says negative things about jews, also says positive things." Positive racism is still racism. On his death bed, Cioran says, "I...am...not...anti-Semitic!" The same kind of thing goes on with Nationalism: the author acts as if disappointed nationalists who only say negative things about their nation are somehow still not nationalists. On the other hand, the author points to where Cioran had affinities with "left-wingers." So, Cioran liked Lenin and the fact that the soviets pursued "social equality." He goes on about how he supports the permanent-revolution, but it has to be national. The book just goes around in circles comparing Cioran's positions to others in an endless commentary, attempting to show how Cioran didn't exactly fit in with the fascists, but was oh-so original.
I suspect behind all the confusion lies these obnoxious thesis about left and right extremism going in a circle, both meeting, and how both are totalitarian. Of course, being totalitarian, they "aren't democracy." With this brilliant observation, one learns nothing about fascism, communism, or democracy. I absolutely hate when she talks about Marxism. It's just totally ignorant, but then so is Cioran's conceptions of Marxism which are all filtered through far-right sources. That's all irritating. The book really should have been edited down to about 150 pages. As someone else noted, Cioran really is a broken record.