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A Short History of Decay Paperback – September 15, 1998

11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


To miss reading this book would be a deprivation Los Angeles Times This [series] is a wonderful idea ... They are absurdist parables, by turns hilarious, unsettling and enigmatic. -- Nicholas Lezard Guardian [The series] sheds remarkable light on the literature, culture and politics of the region...anyone coming fresh to the field will be captivated by the richness, variety, humour and pathos of a classic literature that, through a shared historical experience, transcends national and linguistic boundaries. -- CJ Schuler Independent on Sunday I urge you to go and read them. -- Adam Thirlwell New Statesman This new series of Central European Classics is important well beyond simply providing 'good reads'. -- Stephen Vizinczey Daily Telegraph --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing; 1st Arcade paperback ed edition (September 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559704640
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559704649
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #963,752 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Tony on April 22, 2002
It's a cliche to say this, of course, but nothing else will do. Cioran is an author that you either like, or you don't. If you do like him, and he doesn't make it easy, you find that in no time he becomes your favorite author...
This is one of his earliest books, and one of his best. If you are really interested in post-modern philosophy, art theories, social theories, etc., but find most of what you read precious, posed, downright incomprehensible, or all three, read Cioran. Reading his work, whether you like him or not, agree with him or not, has about the same effect on your thinking as listening to Bach does on your music appreciation. To the extent that you "get" the master, you improve your ability to sort out the useful and original from the bizarre garbage which poses as useful and original. A must read for anyone who wants to think rather than philosophize.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Willis G. Regier on July 6, 2006
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Cioran became a famous young writer in Romania, but left Romania for France in 1937 and made Paris his home. This was the first book he published in French, under the title PRECIS DE DECOMPOSITION. It won the Prix de Rivarol for the best French book by a non-French author, and for decades it was the book that overshadowed everything else he published. If a reader wants to know Cioran, this book cannot be ignored. It introduces almost all of the themes he would make his own--suicide, insomnia, solitude, the importance of sickness, repugnance for professional philosophy--and it is the longest book he ever published in French. Richard Howard, the notable translator of many great French authors, has devoted his talents to translating all of Cioran's French books, and has done his typically splendid job. The translation is complete, utterly reliable, and catches all the sneer and boil of Cioran's own style.

Despite its title, this not a history. It is a series of very short essays, a few paragraphs each, on associated topics, most of which deal with his deep skepticism about God and man. Cioran spent years writing and rewriting the book and in later years complained that it was overwritten. I think the elder Cioran was correct in his assessment of the younger Cioran. It remains a book worth careful reading because the young Cioran pushed himself so hard, both in his thinking and in his attention to style.
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36 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 16, 2003
this book changed my teenager life in quite a drastic way, and i wouldnt call it a positive way. if you can distance yourself from the fundamental ideas in Cioran's book (for example, life's a miserable meaningless empty useless joke of a sad/sadistic god), and admire the style of his prose/poetry, as the others put it, then you're safe. more than safe, you're discovering a different level of 'philosophy' that leaves a bittersweet taste in your mouth.
but if you choose to listen to Cioran and "open your eyes" (as another reviewer put it), you should be very careful, it's hard to live with the above uttered idea. and i tell u that from personal experience ;)
it's an amazing book, but poisonous.
be careful ;)
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By tepi on November 27, 2009
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An epidemic of denial seems to be sweeping through society today. I suppose the cause is a profound fear, even terror, of losing the good opinion that we have of ourselves. And one of the more obvious results of this fear is a positive hatred and rejection of any sort of criticism whatsoever. The illusion that we and our world are fine and dandy and will continue to be fine and dandy must be maintained at all costs.

For those given to viewing the world through rose-colored spectacles Cioran provides a powerful antidote. His works serve to rip away those spectacles and smash them to bits. Rather than offering us a comforting vision of things as we like to think they are, or as we wish they were, he lashes us with a vision of things as they actually are and always have been in this "slaughterhouse" of a universe in which "each being feeds on the agonies of others."

Cioran, in short, mercilessly strips away our most cherished illusions and confronts us with the stark truth of our predicament, a truth that is far from pleasant. The tender-minded are hereby warned: Cioran is a Gnostic and his thought is not for everyone. Depressives certainly and those with suicidal tendencies should give him a wide berth.

As for the tough-minded, they should note that Cioran, besides being a thinker of dark and lacerating thoughts, is also a brilliant stylist with a way of expressing his disgust that can at times be hilariously funny; for example: "Sometimes I wish I was a cannibal - less for the pleasure of eating someone than for the pleasure of vomiting him."

Just as the outrageous opinions of Cioran's great favorite, Diogenes (see
...Read more ›
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By C. Mark Jokela on June 11, 2006
A constant bedside book for me. It dissects our decadence with surgical precision. Its prose is more relevant and brilliant than many surrealist texts to which it invites comparison. The radical questions Cioran sets before the reader makes the book quite disturbing as it often hits the reader who is brutally honest with himself very close to dead-on bullseye. It's one of the most illuminating books of the eschaton as revealed in the immediacy of our lives, as we stand precariously balanced looking direct into the abyss and its depths of nothingness. The reader must harden his heart to withstand the abyss looking back at him straight through the eyes, into the deepest recesses of his own non-being. But then, the reader is reminded by the book's lucidity and made steady through its intransigence as it perforates the existential night with light as dense and permanent as the stars seen from the vantage point of a world steeped in pitch black. Our world.
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