Commonplace Book: Cioran on Death

Compelling passages, notable quotables, bon mots, disjecta, ephemera, and miscellany.


“To see how death spreads over this world, how it kills a tree or how it penetrates dreams, how it withers a flower or a civilization, how it gnaws on the individual and on culture like a destructive blight, means to be beyond tears and regrets, beyond system and form. Whoever has not experienced the awful agony of death, rising and spreading like a surge of blood, like the choking grasp of a snake which provokes terrifying hallucinations, does not know the demonic character of life and the state of inner effervescence from which great transfigurations arise. Such a state of black drunkenness is a necessary prerequisite to understand why one wishes the immediate end of the world. It’s not the luminous drunkenness of ecstasy, in which paradisal visions conquer you with their splendor and you rise to a purity that sublimates into immateriality, but a mad, dangerous, ruinous, and tormented black drunkenness, in which death appears with the awful seduction of nightmarish snake eyes.”

On the Heights of Despair, by E.M. Cioran
Translated by Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston
University of Chicago Press, 1992
Originally published as Pe culmille disperǎrii by the Fundaţia Pentru Literaturǎ Şi Artǎ “Regele Carol II,” 1934.

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