Don Paterson on Emil Cioran's 'The Trouble With Being Born'
Friday 30 January 2004
If Emil Cioran is still unknown to most readers, it's because he worked in two of the least fashionable literary forms: the freewheeling philosophical essay and the aphorism. This means he continues to escape nearly every survey of both 20th-century philosophy and literature. Cioran was a Romanian, wrote most of his work in French, and died in 1995 at the age of 84. Any of the French books - all magnificently translated by the poet Richard Howard - can be considered representative. A good place to start is The Trouble With Being Born (Quartet Books), where he often sounds like a raging Buddha, cursed with a European incarnation and language (reduced to one word for absolute, as opposed to the 120 in Sanskrit). Like his great friend Samuel Beckett, Cioran takes a terrifyingly undeluded look at living, as in our having been dumped here as a conscious soul. His aphorisms are a kind of very black metaphysical recognition comedy. I carry Cioran everywhere I go, and I read him when I'm mentally falling asleep, or feeling miserable; and I always find myself lent a little wakefulness or a little courage. As he says, "In a world without melancholy, the nightingales would belch"; and "It's not worth the bother of killing yourself, because you always kill yourself too late."
Don Paterson's 'Landing Light' is the winner of this year's TS Eliot Prize and Whitbread Poetry Award
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Women should not laugh in public,' says Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister in morality speech
- 2 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 3 Is Ebola coming to Britain? UK health officials issue warning to doctors as outbreak fears grow
- 4 Richard Dawkins says 'date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse' on Twitter
- 5 Danish TV reporter is all business up top, all party down below
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
- < Previous
- Next >