E.M. Cioran on Borges

“What is the use of celebrating him when the universities themselves are doing so?”
—— E. M. Cioran on Borges

One comes back to Cioran as to a friend who has seen too much death. His honesty in the face of the apocalypse and catastrophe, the abortion we term ‘The Twentieth Century’, is without doubt the record of a recording angel. Reading this small letter to a friend in Anathemas and Admirations on Jorge Luis Borges I’m reminded of Cioran himself:

The misfortune of being recognized has befallen him. He deserved better. He deserved to remain in obscurity, in the Imperceptible, to remain as ineffable and unpopular as nuance itself. There he was at home. Consecration is the worst of punishments – for a writer in general, and particularly for a writer of his kind. Once everyone starts quoting him, you must leave off; if you do not, you feel you are merely swelling the ranks of the “admirers,” of his enemies. Those who want to do him justice at all costs are merely hastening his downfall.”

I seem to return to those philosophers who tried to cast doubt on our illusions, who tried to strip us of our comforting mythologies, and magical, mystical view of life and the great unknown spheres of ‘being’. Why? I’ve asked myself that question a thousand times. Maybe it’s childhood and the darkness of awakening into the truth of war – having faced it in Viet Nam ages ago. Maybe it was my disillusionment with the easy answers that people seem to accept in religion – having grown up in the Bible Belt of Texas. Having actually experienced strange things that the priests and preachers had no answers too beyond the shibboleths of dogma and blind faith. Maybe it was nothing more than I have a need to question everything, a restless spirit that cannot abide in other people’s ideas or systems: be they of ancient or contemporary lineage. This is why Cioran is important to me, not because he had any answers, but because he didn’t; because he questioned everything, and was not satisfied with the easy solutions, but wanted to dig down into the pit of hell if need be for an intangible thing that remains ‘unnamed’ – and, probably never can be named. Most of all he wanted to return to paradise, and a newness forever outstripping the moment; that, like William Blake, we are condemned to walk this blasted earth with our own dark impulses leading us either to doom or some other strangeness…

That we continue is because of our stubbornness, our inability to let the elements keep us down, to strive after the only thing we find worth attaining: the prize of wonderment, the satisfaction of discovery, of opening up another door into reality that only the intrepid dare venture toward. Yes, we seek more…. we are the dissatisfied souls who hunger for something else. Not satisfied with the eternal circle of the same we keep walking out of the traps set for us, striving to free ourselves and others of the control mechanisms that would bind us and enslave us to lesser thoughts and goals. Cioran is one of those companions along the way who will remain a guidepost, a sign of battle, a member of that silent league who – as Herman Hesse once wrote in a parable of the paradox: “People of courage and character always seem sinister to the rest!” We know who we are, we need not spell it out, we do not need the vanity of fame or some title to announce our place in the fabric of the social. No! We are anonymous even to ourselves, living beyond the borders of that cave world of normalcy that keeps others tied to the prison house of the mind.

What led me to this passage was re-watching a video of Cioran himself, re-published by Arran James and crew on – synthetic zero – click here to see!

Thanks, Arran for reminding me… 🙂

7 thoughts on “E.M. Cioran on Borges

  1. “That we continue is because of our stubbornness, our inability to let the elements keep us down, to strive after the only thing we find worth attaining: the prize of wonderment, the satisfaction of discovery, of opening up another door into reality that only the intrepid dare venture toward. Yes, we seek more…. we are the dissatisfied souls who hunger for something else. Not satisfied with the eternal circle of the same we keep walking out of the traps set for us, striving to free ourselves and others of the control mechanisms that would bind us and enslave us to lesser thoughts and goals.”

    Bravo good sir. Welcome to the post-nihilist turn. Psychonauts wandering with open hearts – sometimes drunk, sometimes deadly sober – always with deep intentions out into the desert of the Real. We build from the ruins. What shall we create?

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  2. Pingback: Hickman on the intrepid hunger of the free | synthetic_zero

  3. We are anonymous even to ourselves–reminds me of the opening lines of Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals. Nietzsche blames this attitude to the pervasiveness of the ascetic ideal. Our fight is to abstain from reproducing this ideal that has yielded ressentiment and bad conscience–fodders to nihilism.(Deleuze redeploys this warning in his work Nietzsche and Philosophy).

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    • I think in this instance you literalize meaning and cut off one phrase from another without qualifying the latter to the former. What I was actually inferring was the circle of solipsism that too many fall into. Being anonymous to oneself can mean being no longer concerned about one’s Self-importance; ergo, overcoming one’s self through slaying the viper of solipsism. You cut off the first half of that sentence from the second half: “living beyond the borders of that cave world of normalcy that keeps others tied to the prison house of the mind.” Prison house of the mind: solipsism.

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  4. No. I didn’t mean to literalize it. It was in fact a compliment, as I wished to convey. We remain anonymous: for Nietzsche, one has to radicalize anonymity in order to forget what the ascetic ideal has made of us, always attentive to what is already dead, always an audience to nihilism. Nietzsche was attacking Kant who admonished us to be attentive to our conscience, that we all killed God. In this sense, we cannot forget the ascetic ideal into which we have fallen. The fight is to forget the ascetic ideal, to forget that something was lost and that there is a chance to recover. Nihilism wants us to be attentive to our conscience as murderers of God. But we are anonymous, not in the ascetic sense, but as beings who can forget–in Nietzsche ‘a power to shape, form and heal…a power which also enables one to forget’ (see GM, 136; trans. Douglas Smith). Nietzsche also called this surplus power. More than anything, it is the power to forget the blackmail of the ascetic.

    To forget–isn’t this the recovery of wonder? Forgetting? As you put it: ‘the prize of wonderment, the satisfaction of discovery…”

    I apologize for not having made my point well (if this is well enough). I should have mentioned first that the Nietzschean anonymity operates as a double movement.

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