Cioran’s West:

On Heroes, Foreignness, and Destiny


This essay explores the various rapports that Emil Cioran entertained with the West.

Far from being simple or straightforward, these do not however make up a sophisticated, well structured philosophical view; and yet, they are not incoherent either. The same goes for their practical consequences: ambivalence seems to be the word that best describes Cioran’s stand vis-à-vis the West, so far as we can tell from his actions. A fierce critic of Western civilisation, Cioran chose, however, to make it his own home; a ruthless accuser of his countrymen for their lack of will, vigour and heroism, he preferred to deny his being a Romanian in that sense, rather than cease to believe in the country’s ability to discover its strength and destiny some day. It is not the purpose of this essay to clarify which of these positions was his „true” one; or which of the author’s gestures most accurately represented his views.

I don’t believe Cioran had any such things – „true”, everlasting convictions vs. „apparent”or temporary ones, which would be simple wims. But what he did have was passion and the courage to live through the struggle, pain and contradictions that come with that. He was genuinely interested in the topics he wrote about; they kept him awake at night and sometimes defeated him.

But he was honest about that. And when the subject happens to be home or Europe, that kind of courage is all the more needed, if we hope to have any sense of ourselves left at all.