“The Progress of Irony” and “The Sense That Everything Is Going Wrong” – CIORAN

THE HUDSON REVIEW, Autumn 2012

The Progress of Irony

An idea’s initial burst sometimes possesses a value that is masked by subsequent corrections. This is, no doubt, one of the reasons Cioran did not publish this text. The first version (ms. 242), published here, is, as a matter of fact, more finished than the second, abandoned version (ms. 243). This text reworks the theme of the chapter “Irony and Self-Irony” in On the Heights of Despair (1934) with its Kierkegaardian accents and seems to anticipate passages in The Temptation of Existence (1956), in which we again find the ideas of the turn back upon one’s self, of the renunciation of health, of masochism, etc. Furthermore, in a crossed-out passage this text treats ironically the “revelations of psychology,” the very source of this modern, now impure, irony. Aurélien Demars

The Sense That Everything Is Going Wrong

The genesis of this text began with a letter Cioran wrote dated March 12, 1981. In it, Cioran offered advice to his reader, whose name is not given, on organizing a conference: “You are right: the sense that everything is going wrong has existed in every era [. . .]. What is one to do? Become a Buddhist or a skeptic or else blindly consent to Progress. That is what your conference should focus on. If I were you, I would insist on the role this modern superstition has played since Condorcet, and I would present the idea of Progress as a reasonable form of utopia.” Cioran then wrote a text that took up this letter again with a few new formulations in its first four paragraphs. He added a long development. This is the version below (ms. 706), consisting of five manuscript leaflets and eight photocopied pages with corrections. A third, incomplete version dated January 1982 and dedicated to Larese (no doubt the initial addressee) consists of several photocopied pages of the text with a few changes.

Franz Larese worked with the gallery, bookstore, and publishing house Éditions Erker in St. Gallen in Switzerland. He and Jürg Janett had encouraged Eugène Ionesco to paint and devoted an exhibition to him at the Erker Gallery in February 1981. It was no doubt through his fellow countryman that Cioran met Larese. In any case, Cioran and Larese first met at Silvaplana, as we learn from a letter Cioran wrote to Friedgard Thomas (July 5, 1981), then again during two visits Cioran made to St. Gallen in the spring of the following year. Following these meetings, Larese edited in book form, with illustrations by Eduardo Chilida, Cioran’s The Cursed Self (1983), a text Cioran later reworked in the opening chapter of Anathemas and Admirations (1987). Cioran also contributed a text entitled “The Anxious Biologist,” with illustrations by Piero Dorazio, to the collective work Erker-Treffen 4 (Erker Encounters 4, 1987).

The text below was translated into German by Verena von der Heyden-Rynsch as “Sind wir die Letzten?” (“Are We the Last?”). The eschatological perspective recalls the chapter “Urgency of the Worst” in Drawn and Quartered (1979). A.D… [+]

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