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Some Blind Alleys: A Letter (Originally published in French in La tentation d’exister, 1956, and in English translation in The Temptation to Exist, 1968 and 1987 Quartet edition with an introduction by Susan Sontag)

1956

by E.M. Cioran (1911 - 1995)

A Romanian intellectual discourages an aspiring author. Intending to shock, Cioran spews vitriol over the twentieth century addiction to confessional, therapeutic self-expression, urging us to preserve ‘our sickness and our sins’ (among which Cioran himself could number Iron Guard fascism and racism).

He prays for ‘a Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of men of letters’, revels in the Spenglerian death of Western civilisation, and, rejecting equilibrium, wisdom and normalcy, uplifts the heretic as hero. A pseudo-Nietzscheanhowl, the clue to reading this essay with the appropriate level of irony and sympathy is in the title and in its final word: ‘perplexity’.

Related recommendation: Nietzsche ‘On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life’ in Untimely Meditations (1874)

Origin: Romania/France

Themes: The role of Art or Artists, Modernity and Self-consciousness

Genres: Dialogue or Epistolary, Polemical or Political , Sermon or Jeremiad

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