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On the Heights of Despair Paperback – October 1, 1996

ISBN-13: 978-0226106717 ISBN-10: 0226106713 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 150 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (October 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226106713
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226106717
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,561 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Imagine walking across a tightrope suspended high in the summer air above a bay flooded in the mauve glow of sunset, the music of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" surrounding you. Now imagine the tightrope is actually razor-wire, and gusts of wind challenge every tortuous step into sublime infinity. This is the paradox of emotions one feels when reading On the Heights of Despair, the paradigmatic cry of the tortured artist whose explosive intensity of passion is equaled only by the profundity of his despair. In this hauntingly lyrical meditation on darkness, stemming from a sustained insomniac hyper-lucidity, E. M. Cioran cries out a devastating nihilism that is in the end betrayed by his own intransigent lust for being. Compels reading and rereading.

From Publishers Weekly

The dark, existential despair of Romanian philosopher Cioran's short meditations is paradoxically bracing and life-affirming. Written in 1934, when he was 22 and desperately insomniac, this feverishly lyrical, at times slyly humorous confessional outpouring reveals Cioran as an angry young man in morally decaying Europe--a far cry from the elegant, curt stylist of his later books. Here Cioran rails at life's irrationality and absurdities; embraces solitude, melancholy and the awareness of death; and breathes organic vitality into the great philosophical themes of truth, eternity, beauty, suffering and good and evil. After one separates mature wheat from adolescent chaff, Cioran's early philosophical prose, like his later works, puts him in the company of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. In the enriching introduction, Zarifopol-Johnston, who met the thinker in his modest Paris flat, described this book as "a substitute for suicide and . . . its cure."
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

This is the most powerful book I ever read.
Name_8
This exhilarating and euforic book is one of the masterpieces written by Emil Cioran.
Y. miranda
Cioran is one of the great nay-sayers in the history of philosophy.
P. J. Cafaro

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Duane M. Johnson on January 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is Emile Cioran's first book, written in his native Romanian language and published when he was but 23 years old. Much of what he would later express so masterfully in his adopted French language is on display here, not in embryonic form, but in the most incendiary and extreme form of nihilistic regard for human existence in this world. This is the kind of book that one would have expected Nietzsche to have written if he had really been a nihilist, but Nietzsche was only ever content to talk about the abyss, whereas Cioran in his first book is already reporting to us from the abyss.

The literary technique that he employs is a darkly expressive one, dependent upon what I found to be an absolutely explosive vocabulary, and by means of them he describes one extreme state of mind after another and careens through wildly speculative ruminations on life, creativity, and human fate. His outlook is so searingly negative at times that a kind of reverse light appears to emanate from it, and one has the impression that he only writes with the wish to destroy what is of value in order that he might thereby find what is of some lesser and thus higher value...and only for the short span of our mortal admiration.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Mark Nadja on December 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
You know the kinds of people who have the posters with the fluffy little kitten hanging from the rope with the caption "Hang in there!" on it tacked to their cubicle corkboard? Those kind of people probably wouldn't appreciate this book. Now if the poster showed the little skeleton of the same kitty all covered with red ants with the slogan "You can let go now!" on it...now that's the sort who'd understand the appeal of someone like EM Cioran.

You need to have spent some time up there on the "heights of despair" yourself to have achieved a certain panoramic view of life. Most people go no further up than the "foothills of perturbation" or the "plateau of really ticked off." Who can blame them? No one likes to suffer, not even a masochist, whose safe word delineates the border where he stops taking pleasure in his "pain."

Okay, let me put it like this. I'm pretty happy where I'm at in life right now. No major complaints. Health good. Full head of hair. I enjoy a good pumpkin muffin, a crisp clear morning, and a new box of colored pencils as much as any man, woman, or child. But when my birthday comes around, I'd no more think of celebrating it with balloons and hats and noisemakers, with cake and candles and making of wishes than I would think of celebrating the Holocaust. (Sorry, mom.)

Being born is a disaster, an atrocity that lasts, on average, about 75 years. We aren't born into the world, but onto the heights of despair--with nowhere to go but down.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Y. miranda on November 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
This exhilarating and euforic book is one of the masterpieces written by Emil Cioran. "On the heights of despair" is for us postmoderns what St. Augustine's Confessions must have signified for the medieval reader. This work is truly an account of the fragmented and disordered European consciouss of between wars: not an abstract one, but a particular and individual conscious that faces the glory of absurdity. Although many people have reviewed this book as Nietzschean, I would say it is rather Schopenhauerian, since its pessimism hadrly leaves any room for Zarathustra's dancing and joyful way of being. Anyways, I think anyone intrested in thinkers such as Camus, Sartre, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Feuerbach, Stiner, Nietzsche, should read this book.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 23, 1998
Format: Paperback
Cioran is one of the most interesting nihlist philosophers of the twentieth century. As well, On the Heights of Despair is no disappointment. While his pessimism is sometimes disheartening, the grace of his words lends heavily to his credit. Whether one agrees or disagrees with his thoughts, no one can disparage the dynamics of his books. What is even more impressive is, in an almost Conrad-esque fashion, he so eloquently composes in a language that is not even his own. Though he is quoted as saying "I have no nationality", it is still impressive that a boy from a small village in the Carpathians, schooled in the cloying presence of a Orthodox priest, could so beautifully write in a foreign language. On the Heights of Despair is not a book you want to miss.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By William Lee on August 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
I have to disagree with the previous reviewer who suggests new readers try another one of Cioran's works...This is an excellent introduction to his works, and as I believe it is his first written work, I think it's a good place to start...His writing is hauntingly beautiful and the concepts he addresses more pertinent than ever to the world we currently live in...Anyways, to oversimplify, if you like Nietzche, you should definitely enjoy Cioran, and this work is as good a place as any to start...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Name_8 on November 23, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is the most powerful book I ever read. Thoughts plainly put in writing with a gripping, utterly alert pace from the first page. It can have an influence on someone's life. If you are the brave, read it, you will be astonished by its unique philosophical content.
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