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On the Heights of Despair

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About the Author

E. M. Cioran (1911-1995) was born and educated in Romania and lived in Paris from 1937 until his death. He is the author of numerous works, including On the Heights of Despair, also available from the University of Chicago Press.


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.'' (June)

Born in 1911, the author (who now lives in Paris) belongs to the group of 20th-century Romanian intellectuals that includes Mircea Eliade and Eugene Ionesco. This slim and elegantly translated volume, his first publication, originally appeared in 1934 and won him a national award for young authors. Its dark title should be taken as a whole: Cioran does indeed address death and despair, but from a healthy psychological perspective. While clearly a young man's work, this epigrammatic book is neither callow nor dated. For all Western philosophy collections and readers.-- Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley P.L., Cal.

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