Emil Cioran

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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.

Emil Cioran (8 April 191120 June 1995) was a Romanian writer, noted for his somber works in the French language; known in French as Émile Cioran.

Quotes[edit]

On the Heights of Despair (1934)[edit]

Romanian title: Pe culmile disperării
  • There are questions which, once approached, either isolate you or kill you outright.
  • One of the greatest delusions of the average man is to forget that life is death's prisoner.
  • Haven't people learned yet that the time of superficial intellectual games is over, that agony is infinitely more important than syllogism, that a cry of despair is more revealing than the most subtle thought, and that tears always have deeper roots than smiles?
  • Compared to the refined culture of sclerotic forms and frames, which mask everything, the lyrical mode is utterly barbarian in its expression. Its value resides precisely in its savage quality: it is only blood, sincerity, and fire.
  • The terrifying experience and obsession of death, when preserved in consciousness, becomes ruinous. If you talk about death, you save part of yourself. But at the same time, something of your real self dies, because objectified meanings lose the actuality they have in consciousness.
  • Out of the shadow of the abstract man, who thinks for the pleasure of thinking, emerges the organic man, who thinks because of a vital imbalance, and who is beyond science and art.
  • I am displeased with everything. If they made me God, I would immediately resign.

The Book of Delusions (1936)[edit]

Romanian title: Cartea amăgirilorit
  • No one should forget: Eros alone can fulfill life; knowledge, never. Only Eros makes sense; knowledge is empty infinity;––for thoughts, there is always time; life has its time; there is no thought that comes too late; any desire can become a regret.
  • All the concessions we make to Eros are holes in our desire for the absolute.
  • The reaction against your own thought in itself lends life to thought. How this reaction is born is hard to describe, because it identifies with the very rare intellectual tragedies. ––The tension, the degree and level of intensity of a thought proceeds from its internal antinomies, which in turn are derived from the unsolvable contradictions of a soul. Thought cannot solve the contradictions of the soul. As far as linear thinking is concerned, thoughts mirror themselves in other thoughts, instead of mirroring a destiny.
  • A regret understood by no one: the regret to be a pessimist. It’s not easy to be on the wrong foot with life
  • I don’t understand how people can believe in God, even when I myself think of him everyday.
  • The fear of your own solitude, of its vast surface and its infinity… Remorse is the voice of solitude. And what does this whispering voice say? Everything in us that is not human anymore.
  • To withstand any truth…
  • All philosophers should end their days at Pythia’s feet. There is only one philosophy, that of unique moments.
  • That fear which gives birth to thoughts, and the fear of thoughts…
  • To detach yourself elegantly from the world; to give contour and grace to sadness; a solitude in style; a walk that gives cadence to memories; stepping towards the intangible; with the breath in the trembling margins of things; the past reborn in the overflow of fragrances; the smell, through which we conquer time; the contour of the invisible things; the forms of the immaterial; to deepen yourself in the intangible; to touch the world airborne by smell; aerial dialogue and gliding dissolution; to bathe in your own reflecting fragmentation…
  • Detachment from the world as an attachment to the ego… Who can realize the detachment in which you are as far away from yourself as you are from the world?
  • Only thoughts that are randomly born die. The other thoughts we carry with us without knowing them. They have abandoned themselves to forgetfulness so that they can be with us all the time.
  • What am I, other than a chance in the infinite probabilities of not having been!

Tears and Saints (1937)[edit]

Romanian title: Lacrimi şi Sfinţi
  • Consciousness is nature's nightmare.
  • Is it possible that existence is our exile and nothingness our home?
  • Saints live in flames; wise men, next to them.
  • A heart without music is like beauty without melancholy.
  • As long as one believes in philosophy, one is healthy; sickness begins when one starts to think.
  • …all of the philosophers put together are not worth a single saint.
  • Music is everything. God himself is nothing more than an acoustic hallucination.
  • Sadness makes you God's prisoner.
  • Tell me how you want to die, and I'll tell you who you are.
  • As long as I live I shall not allow myself to forget that I shall die; I am waiting for death so that I can forget about it.
  • To fear is to die every minute.
  • From the cradle to the grave, each individual pays for the sin of not being God. That's why life is an uninterrupted religious crisis, superficial for believers, shattering for doubters.
  • Life is not, and death is a dream. Suffering has invented them both as self-justification. Man alone is torn between an unreality and an illusion.

A Short History of Decay (1949)[edit]

French title: Précis de décomposition
  • Thought is as much a lie as love or faith.
  • 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.
  • Society: an inferno of saviors!
  • 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.
  • Society is not a disease, it is a disaster. What a stupid miracle that one can live in it.
  • Life inspires more dread than death — it is life which is the great unknown.
  • 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 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, but when he frees himself from the fruitful tyranny of fixed ideas, he is lost, ruined.
  • The universal view melts things into a blur.
  • Truths begin by a conflict with the police — and end by calling them in.
  • At different degrees, 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.
  • When we cannot be delivered from ourselves, we delight in devouring ourselves.
  • Vague a l'ame — melancholy yearning for the end of the world.
  • You are forgiven everything provided you have a trade, a subtitle to your name, a seal on your nothingness.
  • Try to be free: you will die of hunger.
  • I find in myself as much evil as in anyone, but detesting action - mother of all vices - I am the cause of no one's suffering.
  • History shows that the thinkers who mounted on the top of the ladder of questions, who set their foot on the last rung, that of the absurd, have bequesthed to posterity only an example of sterility.
  • Nothing is indefensible - from the absurdest proposition to the most monstrous crime.
  • Why do you lack the strength to escape the obligation to breathe?
  • To repeat to yourself a thousand times a day: 'Nothing on Earth has any worth,' to keep finding yourself at the same point, to circle stupidly as a top, eternally...
  • I dream of wanting - and all I want seems to me worthless.
  • I thought that the only action a man could perform without shame was to take his life; that he had no right to diminish himself in the succession of days and the inertic of misery. No elect, I kept telling myself, but those who committed suicide.
  • As incompetent in life as in death, I loathe myself and in this loathing I dream of another life, another death. And for having sought to be a sage such as never was, I am only a madman among the mad.

All Gall Is Divided (1952)[edit]

French title: Syllogismes de l'amertume
  • The desire to die was my one and only concern; to it I have sacrificed everything, even death.
  • If there is anyone who owes everything to Bach, it is certainly God.
  • The aphorism is cultivated only by those who have known fear in the midst of words, that fear of collapsing with all the words.
  • The pessimist has to invent new reasons to exist every day: he is a victim of the "meaning" of life.
  • "I am like a broken puppet whose eyes have fallen inside." This remark of a mental patient weighs more heavily than a whole stack of works on introspection.
  • Incredible that the prospect of having a biographer has made no one renounce having a life.
  • There is an innate anxiety which supplants in us both knowledge and intuition.
  • Lucidity's task: to attain a correct despair, an Olympian ferocity.
  • Death poses a problem which replaces all the others. What is deadly to philosophy, to the naive belief in the hierarchy of perplexities.
  • The advantage of meditating upon life and death is being able to say anything at all about them.
  • Objection to scientific knowledge: this world doesn't deserve to be known.
  • In the torments of the intellect, there is a certain bearing which is to be sought in vain among those of the heart. Skepticism is the elegance of anxiety.
  • Not content with real sufferings, the anxious man imposes imaginary ones on himself; he is a being for whom unreality exists, must exist; otherwise where would he obtain the ration of torment his nature demands?
  • Whether or not there exists a solution to problems troubles only a minority; that the emotions have no outcome, lead to nothing, vanish into themselves - that is the great unconscious drama, the affective insolubility everyone suffers without even thinking about it.
  • We suffer: the external world begins to exist...; we suffer to excess: it vanishes. Pain instigates the world only to unmask its unreality.
  • Boredom is a larval anxiety; depression, a dreamy hatred.
  • Philosophy offers an antidote to melancholy. And many still believe in the depth of philosophy!
  • Philosophy's error is to be too endurable.
  • If someone incessantly drops the word "life," you know he's a sick man.
  • Long before physics or psychology were born, pain disintegrated matter, and affliction the soul.
  • Sooner or later, each desire must encounter its lassitude: its truth...
  • Awareness of time: assault on time...
  • Erect I make a resolution; prone I revoke it.
  • Thanks to depression - that alpinism of the indolent - we scale every summit and daydream over every precipice from our bed.
  • If just once you were depressed for no reason, you have been so all your life without knowing.
  • I live only because it is in my power to die when I choose to: without the idea of suicide, I'd have killed myself right away.
  • The skepticism which fails to contribute to the ruin of our health is merely an intellectual exercise.
  • Of all calumnies the worst is the one which attacks our indolence, which contests its authenticity.
  • Without God, everything is nothingness; and with God? Supreme nothingness.
  • You have dreamed of setting the world ablaze, and you have not even managed to communicate your fire to words, to light up a single one!
  • No longer ask me for my program: isn't breathing one?
  • What anxiety when one is not sure of one's doubts or wonders: are these actually doubts?
  • To hope is to contradict the future.
  • However intimate we may be with the operations of the mind, we cannot think more than two or three minutes a day; - unless, by taste or by profession, we practice, for hours on end, brutalizing words in order to extract ideas from them...The intellectual represents the major disgrace, the culminating failure of Homo sapiens.
  • Only the idiot is equipped to breathe.
  • The refutation of suicide: is it not inelegant to abandon a world which has so willingly put itself at the service of our melancholy?
  • The Creation was the first act of sabotage.
  • For two thousand years, Jesus has revenged himself on us for not having died on a sofa.
  • Losing love is so rich a philosophical ordeal that it makes a hairdresser into a rival of Socrates.
  • The lover who kills himself for a girl has an experience which is more complete and much more profound than the hero who overturns the world.
  • We always love...despite; and that "despite" covers an infinity.
  • In our fear, we are victims of an aggression of the Future.
  • Anxiety - or the fanaticism of the worst.
  • Without it's assiduity to the ridiculous, would the human race have lasted more than a single generation?
  • I believe in the salvation of humanity, in the future of cyanide...
  • "Where do you get those superior airs of yours?" "I've managed to survive, you see, all those nights when I wondered: am I going to kill myself at dawn?"
  • The moment we believe we've understood everything grants us the look of a murderer.
  • Only optimists commit suicide, the optimists who can no longer be...optimists. The others, having no reason to live, why should they have any to die?
  • On the frontiers of the self: "What I have suffered, what I am suffering, no one will ever know, not even I."
  • No one should try to live if he has not completed his training as a victim.

The Temptation to Exist (1956)[edit]

French title: La tentation d'exister
  • Let us speak plainly: everything which keeps us from self-dissolution, every lie which protects us against our unbreathable certitudes is religious.
  • The sphere of consciousness shrinks in action; no one who acts can lay claim to the universal, for to act is to cling to the properties of being at the expense of being itself, to form a reality to reality's detriment.
  • If we would regain our freedom, we must shake off the burden of sensation, no longer react to the world by our senses, break our bonds. For all sensation is a bond, pleasure as much as pain, joy as much as misery. The only free mind is the one that, pure of all intimacy with beings or objects, plies its own vacuity.
  • A minimum of unconsciousness is necessary if one wants to stay inside history. To act is one thing; to know one is acting is another. When lucidity invests the action, insinuates itself into it, action is undone, and with it, prejudice, whose function consists, precisely, in subordinating, in enslaving consciousness to action. The man who unmasks his fictions renounces his own resources and, in a sense, himself. Consequently, he will accept other fictions which will deny him, since they will not have cropped up from his own depths. No man concerned with his equilibrium may exceed a certain degree of lucidity and analysis.
  • The only minds which seduce us are the minds which have destroyed themselves trying to give their life a meaning.
  • Anyone can escape into sleep, we are all geniuses when we dream, the butcher's the poet's equal there.
  • The wrinkles of a nation are as visible as those of an individual.

History & Utopia (1960)[edit]

French title: Histoire et utopie
  • Pursued by our origins…we all are.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 possess it, freedom is everything, for us who do, it is merely an illusion.
  • 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 civilised men, an intruder, a troglodyte enamored of decrepitude, plunged into subversive prayers.
  • A distant enemy is always preferable to one at the gate.
  • 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.
  • Mind, even more deadly to empires than to individuals, erodes them, compromises their solidity.
  • I foresee the day when we shall read nothing but telegrams and prayers.
  • Ambition is a drug that makes its addicts potential madmen.
  • The more we try to wrest ourselves from our ego, the deeper we sink into it.
  • 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.
  • Word — that invisible dagger.
  • Revenge is not always sweet, once it is consummated we feel inferior to our victim.
  • The multiplication of our kind borders on the obscene; the duty to love them, on the preposterous.
  • Were we to undertake an exhaustive self-scrutiny, disgust would paralyze us, we would be doomed to a thankless existence.
  • We understand God by everything in ourselves that is fragmentary, incomplete, and inopportune.
  • 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.
  • 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?

The Fall Into Time (1964)[edit]

French title: La chute dans le temps
  • He who has never envied the vegetable has missed the human drama.
    • p. 178, first American edition (1970)

The New Gods (1969)[edit]

French title: Le mauvais démiurge
  • Suicide is a sudden accomplishment, a lightninglike deliverance: it is nirvana by violence.
  • Why don't I kill myself? If I knew exactly what keeps me from doing so, I should have no more questions to ask myself since I should have answered them all.
  • Only those moments count when the desire to remain by yourself is so powerful that you'd prefer to blow your brains out than to exchange a word with someone.
  • Endless brooding over a question undermines you as much as a dull pain.
  • Psychoanalysis will be entirely discredited one of these days, no doubt about it. Which will not keep it from destroying our last vestiges of naivete. After psychoanalysis, we can never again be innocent.
  • The obsession with suicide is characteristic of the man who can neither live nor die, and whose attention never swerves from this double impossibility.
  • When you have understood that nothing is, that things do not even deserve the status of appearances, you no longer need to be saved, you are saved, and miserable forever.
  • To make more plans than an explorer or a crook, yet to be infected at the will's very root.
  • Refinement is a sign of a deficient vitality, in art, in love, and in everything.
  • The mind advances only when it has the patience to go in circles, in other words, to deepen.
  • I dream of a language whose words, like fists, would fracture jaws.
  • To conceive a thought - just one, but one that would tear the universe to pieces.
  • There is no means of proving it is preferable to be than not to be.
  • An anxious man constructs his terrors, then installs himself within them: a stay-at-home in a yawning chasm.
  • The skeptic is the least mysterious man in the world, and yet, starting from a certain moment, he no longer belongs to this world.
  • It is unjust to call imaginary the diseases which are, on the contrary, only too real, since they proceed from our mind, the only regulator of our equilibrium and our health.
  • To suffer is to produce knowledge.
  • When you know that every problem is only a false problem, you are dangerously close to salvation.
  • Skepticism is an exercise in defascination.
  • What place do we occupy in the "universe"? A point, if that! Why reproach ourselves when we are evidently so insignificant? Once we make this observation, we grow calm at once: henceforth, no more bother, no more frenzy, metaphysical or otherwise. And then that point dilates, swells, substitutes itself for space. And everything begins all over again.
  • Speech and silence. We feel safer with a madman who talks than with one who cannot open his mouth.
  • The only subversive mind is the one that questions the obligation to exist; all the others, the anarchist at the top of the list, compromise with the established order.
  • They ask you for facts, proofs, works, and all you can show them are transformed tears.
  • We are all deep in a hell each moment of which is a miracle.

The Trouble With Being Born (1973)[edit]

French title: De l'inconvénient d'être né
  • We make choices, decisions, as long as we keep to the surface of things; once we reach the depths, we can neither choose nor decide, we can do nothing but regret the surface...
  • The only thing the young should be taught is that there is virtually nothing to be hoped for from life. One dreams of a Catalogue of Disappointments which would include all the disillusionments reserved for each and every one of us, to be posted in the schools.
  • 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.
  • Once we begin to want, we fall under the jurisdiction of the Devil.
  • It is a great force, and a great fortune, to be able to live without any ambition whatever. I aspire to it, but the very fact of so aspiring still participates in ambition.
  • What is that one crucifixion compared to the daily kind any insomniac endures?
  • 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.
  • I have all the defects of other people yet everything they do seems to me inconceivable.
  • What are you waiting for in order to give up?
  • The farther men get from God, the farther they advance into the knowledge of religions.
  • An aphorism? Fire without flames. Understandable that no one tries to warm himself at it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Everything turns 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.
  • Late at night. I feel like falling into a frenzy, doing some unprecedented thing to release myself, but I don't see against whom, against what...
  • The ideal being? An angel ravaged by humor.
  • Every thought derives from a thwarted sensation.
  • Progress is the injustice each generation commits with regard to its predecessor.
  • One cannot live without motives. I have no motives left, and I am living.
  • Buddhism calls anger "corruption of the mind," manicheism "root of the tree of death." I know this, but what good does it do me to know?
  • As art sinks into paralysis, artists multiply. This anomaly ceases to be one if we realize that art, on its way to exhaustion, has become both impossible and easy.
  • Self-pity is not as sterile as we suppose. Once we feel its mere onset, we assume a thinker's attitude, and come to think of it, we come to think!
  • Fear is the antidote to boredom: the remedy must be stronger than the disease.
  • There is nothing to say about anything. So there can be no limit to the number of books.
  • We dread the future only when we are not sure we can kill ourselves when we want to.
  • Two enemies - the same man divided.
  • When I happen to be busy, I never give a moment's thought to the "meaning" of anything, particularly of whatever it is I am doing. A proof that the secret of everything is in action and not abstention, that fatal cause of consciousness.
  • We have lost, being born, as much as we shall lose, dying. Everything.
  • The more you are a victim of contradictory impulses, the less you know which to yield to. To lack character - precisely that and nothing more.
  • Self-knowledge - the bitterest knowledge of all and also the kind we cultivate least: what is the use of catching ourselves out, morning to night, in the act of illusion, pitilessly tracing each act back to its root, and losing case after case before our own tribunal?
  • This very second has vanished forever, lost in the anonymous mass of the irrevocable. It will never return. I suffer from this and I do not. Everything is unique - and insignificant.
  • In relation to any act of life, the mind acts as a killjoy.
  • "Do I look like someone who has something to do here on Earth?" - That's what I'd like to answer the busybodies who inquire into my activities.
  • Where are my sensations? They have melted into... me, and what is this me, this self, but the sum of these evaporated sensations?
  • In the fact of being born there is such an absence of necessity that when you think about it a little more than usual, you are left...with a foolish grin.
  • If death is as horrible as is claimed, how is it that after the passage of a certain period of time we consider happy any being, friend or enemy, who has ceased to live?
  • The mind that puts everything in question, reaches, after a thousand interrogations, an almost total inertia, a situation which the inert, in fact, knows from the start, by instinct. For what is inertia but a congenital perplexity?
  • If I used to ask myself, over a coffin, "what good did it do the occupant to be born?" I now put the same question about anyone alive.
  • Paradise was unendurable, otherwise the first man would have adapted to it; this world is no less so, since here we regret paradise or anticipate another one. What to do? Where to go? Do nothing and go nowhere, easy enough.
  • "What do you do from morning to night?" "I endure myself."
  • The poor, by thinking unceasingly of money, reach the point of losing the spiritual advantages of non-possession, thereby sinking as low as the rich.
  • Nothing is a better proof of how far humanity has regressed than the impossibility of finding a single nation, a single tribe, among whom birth still provokes mourning and lamentations.
  • I do nothing, granted. But I see the hours pass - which is better than trying to fill them.
  • Say what we will, death is the best thing nature has found to please everyone. With each of us, everything vanishes, everything stops forever. What an advantage, what an abuse! Without the least effort on our part, we own the universe, we drag it into our own disappearance. No doubt about it, dying is immoral…
  • The need for novelty is the characteristic of an alienated gorilla.
  • No position is so false as having understood and still remaining alive.
  • We have convictions only if we have studied nothing thoroughly.
  • Nothing deserves to be undone, doubtless because nothing deserved to be done.
  • Consciousness is much more than the thorn, it is the dagger in the flesh.
  • The more you live, the less useful it seems to have lived.
  • "What's wrong - what's the matter with you?" Nothing, nothing's the matter, I've merely taken a leap outside my fate, and now I don't know where to turn, what to run for...
  • Not to be born is undoubtedly the best plan of all. Unfortunately, it is within no one's reach.
  • Only one thing matters: learning to be the loser.
  • The unfortunate thing about public misfortunes is that everyone regards himself as qualified to talk about them.
  • God is what survives the evidence that nothing deserves to be thought.
  • Obviously God was a solution, and obviously none so satisfactory that will ever be found again.
  • My mission is to suffer for all those who suffer without knowing it. I must pay for them, expiate their unconsciousness, their luck to be ignorant of how unhappy they are.
  • Existence would be a quite impracticable enterprise if we stopped granting importance to what has none.
  • To have failed in everything, always, out of a love of discouragement.
  • Erosion of our being by our infirmities: the resulting void is filled by the presence of consciousness, what am I saying? - that void is consciousness itself.
  • There is no false sensation.
  • To think that so many have succeeded in dying!
  • We must suffer to the end, to the moment when we stop believing in suffering.

Drawn and Quartered (1983)[edit]

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.
  • 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.
  • I feel effective, competent, likely to do something positive only when I lie down and abandon myself to an interrogation without object or end.
  • Philosophers write for professors; thinkers for writers.
  • Fortunate those who, born before science, were privileged to die of their first disease!
  • Even when nothing happens, everything seems too much for me. What can be said, then, in the presence of an event, any event?
  • Impossible to accede to truth by opinions, for each opinion is only a mad perspective of reality.
  • There is no one whose death I have not longed for, at one moment or another.
  • Every act of courage is the work of an unbalanced man. Animals, normal by definition, are always cowardly except when they know themselves to be stronger, which is cowardice itself.
  • To be is to be cornered.
  • "Neither this world, nor the next, nor happiness are for the being abandoned to doubt." - This point in the Gita is my death sentence.
  • I want to proclaim a truth that would forever exile me from among the living. I know only the conditions but not the words that would allow me to formulate it.
  • To found a family. I think it would have been easier for me to found an empire.
  • One is and remains a slave as long as one is not cured of hoping.
  • As soon as one returns to Doubt (if it could be said that one has ever left it), undertaking anything at all seems not so much useless as extravagant. Doubt works deep within you like a disease, or even more effectively, like a faith.
  • How can you know if you are in the truth? The criterion is simple enough: if others make a vacuum around you, there is not a doubt in the world that you are closer to the essential than they are.
  • Get hold of yourself, be confident once more, don't forget that it is not given to just anyone to have idolized discouragement without succumbing to it.
  • The state of health is a state of nonsensation, even of nonreality. As soon as we cease to suffer, we cease to exist.
  • By what aberration has suicide, the only truly normal action, become the attribute of the flawed?
  • To try curing someone of a "vice," of what is the deepest thing he has, is to attack his very being, and this is indeed how he himself understands it, since he will never forgive you for wanting him to destroy himself in your way and not his.
  • The only profound thinkers are the ones who do not suffer from a sense of the ridiculous.
  • We are all of us in error, the humorists excepted. They alone have discerned, as though in jest, the inanity of all that is serious and even of all that is frivolous.
  • We must live, you used to say, as if we were never going to die. - Didn't you know that's how everyone lives, including those obsessed with Death?
  • In the hours without sleep, each moment is so full and so vacant that it suggests itself as a rival of Time.
  • Eternity is absence.
  • Man is fulfilled only when he ceases to be man.
  • We are fulfilled only when we aspire to nothing, when we are impregnated by that nothing to the point of intoxication.
  • When I happen to be satisfied with everything, even God and myself, I immediately react like the man who, on a brilliant day, torments himself because the sun is bound to explode in a few billion years.
  • "What is truth?" is a fundamental question. But what is it compared to "How to endure life?" And even this one pales beside the next: "How to endure oneself?" - That is the crucial question in which no one is in a position to give us an answer.
  • Everything is nothing, including the consciousness of nothing.
  • One disgust, then another - to the point of losing the use of speech and even of the mind...The greatest exploit of my life is to be still alive.
  • After all, why should ordinary people want to contemplate the End, especially when we see the condition of those who do?
  • What can be said, lacks reality. Only what fails to make its way into words exists and counts.
  • Woe to the book you can read without constantly wondering about the author!
  • To think is to run after insecurity, to be demoralized for grandiose trifles, to immure oneself in abstractions with a martyr's avidity, to hunt up complications the way others pursue collapse or gain. The thinker is by definition keen for torment.
  • It makes no sense to say that death is the goal of life, but what else is there to say?
  • We regret not having the courage to make such and such decision; we regret much more having made one - any one. Better no action than the consequences of an action.
  • "You really should come to the house - one of these days we might die without having seen each other again." - "Since we have to die in any case, what's the use of seeing each other again?"
  • Everyone is mistaken, everyone lives in illusion. At best, we can admit a scale of fictions, a hierarchy of unrealities, giving preference to one rather than to another; but to choose, no, definitely not that...
  • Even more than in a poem, it is the aphorism that the word is god.
  • All morning, I did nothing but repeat: "Man is an abyss, man is an abyss." - I could not, alas, find anything better.
  • Old age, after all, is merely the punishment for having lived.
  • Hope is the normal form of delirium.
  • Try as I will, I don't see what might exist...
  • If I were to go blind, what would bother me the most would be no longer to be able to stare idiotically at the passing clouds.
  • We live in the false as long as we have not suffered. But when we begin to suffer, we enter the truth only to regret the false.
  • The worst is not ennui nor despair but their encounter, their collision. To be crushed between the two!
  • When we know what words are worth, the amazing thing is that we try to say anything at all, and that we manage to do so. This requires, it is true, a supernatural nerve.
  • To resign oneself or to blow out one's brains, that is the choice one faces at certain moments. In any case, the only real dignity is that of exclusion.
  • Every utopia about to be realized resembles a cynical dream.

Anatheamas and Admirations (1987)[edit]

  • We inhabit a language rather than a country.
  • Impossible to spend sleepless nights and accomplish anything: if, in my youth, my parents had not financed my insomnias, I should surely have killed myself.
  • Criticism is a misconception: we must read not to understand others but to understand ourselves.
  • A word, once dissected, no longer signifies anything, is nothing. Like a body that, after an autopsy, is less than a corpse.
  • Except for music, everything is a lie, even solitude, even ecstasy. Music, in fact, is the one and the other, only better.
  • For a writer, to change languages is to write a love letter with a dictionary.
  • To have accomplished nothing and to die overworked.
  • What is not heartrendering is superfluous, at least in music.
  • What a judgment upon the living, if it is true, as has been maintained, that what dies has never existed!
  • The fact that life has no meaning is a reason to live - moreover, the only one.
  • The surest means of not losing your mind on the spot: remembering that everything is unreal, and will remain so...
  • My mission is to see things as they are. Exactly the contrary of a mission.
  • When you get over an infatuation, to fall for someone ever again seems so inconceivable that you imagine no one, not even a bug, that is not mired in disappointment.
  • When you love someone, you hope - the more closely to be attached - that a catastrophe will strike your beloved.
  • I anticipated witnessing in my lifetime the disappearance of our species. But the Gods have been against me.
  • It is not be genius, it is by suffering, and suffering alone, that one ceases to be a marionette.
  • The more one has suffered, the less one demands. To protest is a sign one has traversed no hell.
  • How many disappointments are conducive to bitterness? One or a thousand, depending on the subject.
  • Our place is somewhere between being and nonbeing - between two fictions.
  • If to describe a misery were as easy to live through it!
  • This morning I thought, hence lost my bearings, for a good quarter of an hour.
  • Only what we have not accomplished and what we could not accomplish matters to us, so that what remains of a whole life is only what it will not have been.
  • To dream of an enterprise of demolition that would spare none of the traces of the original Big Bang.
  • There exists, I grant you, a clinical depression, upon which certain remedies occasionally have effect; but there exists another kind, a melancholy underlying our very outbursts of gaiety and accompanying us everywhere, without leaving us alone for a single moment. And there is nothing that can rid us of this lethal omnipresence: the self forever confronting itself.
  • I'd rather offer my life as a sacrifice than be necessary to anything.
  • Impossible for me to know whether or not I take myself seriously. The drama of detachment is that we cannot measure its progress. We advance into a desert, and we never know where we are in it.
  • Of all that makes us suffer, nothing - so much as disappointment - gives us the sensation of at last touching Truth.
  • Melancholy redeems this universe, and yet it is melancholy that separates us from it.
  • There is always someone above you: beyond God Himself rises Nothingness.
  • What an incitation to hilarity, hearing the word goal while following a funeral procession!
  • To read is to let someone else work for you - the most delicate form of exploitation.
  • To think is to submit to the whims and commands of an uncertain health.
  • Who does not believe in Fate proves that he has not lived.
  • To be or not to be...Neither one nor the other.
  • Beware of thinkers whose minds function only when they are fueled by a quotation.
  • If I were asked to summarize as briefly as possible my vision of things, to reduce it to its most succinct expression, I should replace words with an exclamation point, a definitive !
  • One grasps incomparably more things in boredom than by labor, effort being the mortal enemy of meditation.
  • Love's great (and sole) originality is to make happiness indistinct from misery.
  • Opinions, yes; convictions, no. That is the point of departure for an intellectual pride.
  • What is marvelous is that each day brings us a new reason to disappear.
  • Since the only things we remember are humiliations and defeats, what is the use of all the rest?
  • The need to devour oneself absolves one of the need to believe.
  • To have grazed every form of failure, including success.
  • Dead of night. No one, nothing but the society of the moments. Each pretends to keep us company, then escapes - desertion after desertion.
  • One would have to be as unenlightened as an angel or an idiot to imagine that the human escapade could turn out well.
  • Never unreal, Pain is a challenge to the universal fiction. What luck to be the only sensation granted a content, if not a meaning!
  • When we have no further desire to show ourselves, we take refuge in music, the Providence of the abulic.
  • The reasons for persisting in Being seem less and less well founded, and our successors will find it easier than we to be rid of such obstinacy.
  • If you don't want to explode with rage, leave your memory alone, abstain from burrowing there.
  • In order to deceive melancholy, you must keep moving. Once you stop, it wakens, if in fact it has ever dozed off.
  • What I know wreaks havoc upon what I want.
  • By virtue of depression, we recall those misdeeds we buried in the depths of our memory. Depression exhumes our shames.
  • Is it conceivable to adhere to a religion founded by someone else?
  • The world begins and ends with us. Only our consciousness exists, it is everything, and this everything vanishes with it. Dying, we leave nothing. Then why so much fuss around an event that is no such thing?
  • Without will, no conflict: no tragedy among the abulic. Yet the failure of will can be experienced more painfully than a tragic destiny.
  • To think we could have spared ourselves from living all that we have lived!

Quotes about Cioran[edit]

  • ...the greatest French writer to honour our language since the death of Paul Valery.
  • ...the most distinguished figure in the tradition since Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Wittgenstein.

External links[edit]

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