It’s not surprising, perhaps, that Emil Cioran isn’t much read in England. Born in Romania, but winning a scholarship to the University of Berlin in 1933, Cioran was an avid supporter of both the Nazis and the Romanian far right group, the Iron Guard. His writing is bleakly nihilistic, his titles a hint to what lies within: On the Summits of Despair, A Short History of Decay, The Trouble With Being Born. Cioran was perhaps the greatest 20th-century practitioner of the aphorism, that ancient, fusty, patrician form associated with Hippocrates, Erasmus, de la Rochefoucauld and Pascal.
Viewed in a certain light, though, a kind of mordant humour begins to emerge from Cioran’s writing. It’s hard to read pensées such as ‘We have lost, being born, as much as we shall lose, dying.