My mother could never understand why I liked to read Cioran. “Sure, he's good,” she used to say, “but isn't he over the top?” I remember that I disliked her comment. “So what if he's over the top, if indeed that is the case?” I would blurt at her and then remind her that particularly a woman like her should know better. And what kind of woman was she, some may like to know? As far as I am concerned, and apart from being family, she was the most fascinating person I have ever known. And what fascinated me about her was her ability to combine total mercilessness with soft reason. She was brutal in her approach to facts, which she always formalized down to the “meremost minimum.” “This is this,” she used to say, “not something else.” “Sure,” I would say, feeling crushed by 'reality' “but listen to this,” and then I would venture into some counter-argument that would make the matter-of-fact situation appear more nuanced - or so I liked to believe.
What I liked about mother was the fact that although she was always ready to bulldozer my exposition, she would often also go: “I see your point – beyond 'the fact'” - which would stop her demolition project. As I grew older, I understood what enabled her to be both uncompromising and yet flexibly reasonable about listening to how "this is this" might also be something else. She always hoped that people, even when living most inauthentic lives for the most part, had the potential to reveal their 'religious' dimension within themselves and to her. Expecting this of everyone was a tall order, however, and it didn't make her popular. On that, one could then say that she was as over the top as Cioran, whom I still read for the exact same reason: that he really believed that reading for the soul, rather than the plot, is infinitely more interesting. We narrativize our existences all the time, all according to the variables available to us to permute and which enable us to feel good about ourselves. But the soul, as mother and Cioran seem to suggest, has its own set of channels through which to manifest itself.
My partial translation of and introduction to Cioran's Cartea Amagirilor (The Book of Delusions) has come out in the latest issue of Hyperion, the New York based journal of philosophy and aesthetics. Fragments of insights into the soul are in it, and the editors did a beautiful job at matching what is at stake in our desires to relate to people in the moment when they reveal themselves to us 'beyond the fact'. The fact also that Mark Daniel Cohen managed to be so exquisite in his layout and visual effects after his accident—which has delayed the publication—is quite miraculous in itself, which supports the idea that if the soul is believed in, it is rendered as an experience of beauty in the unfinished, which thus itself takes on infinite proportions. Mark is the master supremo of good sense and style. Congrats, my friend, and welcome back to life.
Here are also a few listings so far of the Cioran piece, which interestingly enough, and although independent of each other, quote passages that basically say the same. In Cioran's words:
"––Just like when during daytime, when we close our eyes to immerse ourselves in the sudden darkness we discover points of light and bands of color which remind us of the other part of the world, when likewise we descend into the vast and dark depths of our soul, when what is revealed onto us, in the margins of darkness, we find the reflections of an unsuspected golden world. Can these reflections be a calling to our soul or a regret?
Thought cannot solve the contradictions of the soul.
I only love the one who goes beyond there is."
(E.M. CIORAN: The Book of Delusions)
Hyperion (full pdf)