E.M. Cioran – prose


Excerpt from Crepuscule des Pensées: Chapter IV

(Translated by Purdey Lord Kreiden Thomas Taren & Michael Thomas Taren Lord Kreiden)

 

  When aspiration towards the void reaches the intensity of the eros, neither time nor eternity appeals to us any longer. Now or forever are elements with which we operate in the world, points of reference, the mortals’ conventions. Eternity seems to us a good that we seek to conquer, time a flaw for which we apologize in all circumstances. What is all this for he who considers it from the radical absence, opening his eyes within perfection? Will he descry in the pure enchantment of nothingness, in this spectacle sickly empty, a stain which will obtain to the virgin infinity?
   Time and eternity are the forms of our adherence or of our non-adherence to the world, but not those of total renouncement, which would be a music without sounds, an aspiration without desire, a life without breath and a death without extinction.

*

   At the extreme limit of the lessening of the being, “now,” “here,” “there,” “never” and “always” lose their meaning, for where to find a place or an instant, when we conserve of the world not even its remembrance?
   This voluptuous “nowhere”, but of a voluptuousness without content, is a formal ecstasy of irreality. Transparence becomes our being, and a rose thought by an angel wouldn’t be lighter nor more vaporous than the flight towards the ecstatic perfection of non-being.
   Eternity is an occasion of pride for mortals, a pretentious form under which they satisfy a fleeting taste for “non-life.” Eternally dissatisfied by her, they stand once again in solidarity with their own phantoms and find themselves loving the eternal time that life is. How does the latter distinguish itself from eternity? In that we live in it, for we can breathe only in the drunkenness of infinite becoming, whereas eternity is the lucidity of the becoming.
  When, in the midst of the flowing of things, we raise our head, malcontent, and revolt against the drunkenness of the being, the attempt at evasion pushes us toward the negation of time. Nevertheless, eternity compels us to a perpetual comparison with temporality, which no longer happens in the radical suspension that the experience of the void provides, which “is” neutrality as much in its relationship to time as to eternity, neutrality to “whatever.”
  Eternity could be the final march of time, like nothingness the last sublimation of eternity. What a strange thing, when we’ve understood that the beings are shadows and that all is vain, then to move away from the world to find the sense, the sole sense, in the contemplation of Nothingness, when we could have just the same remained amidst the shadows and the nothingness of everyday. Whence comes this need to superimpose over the effective nothingness a supreme Void?

*

   The eventuality of paradise makes me drink down all the bitternesses of this world… And even without the hypothesis of such a perfection, wouldn’t it be awful to die midpath, to leave so many sadnesses unaccomplished, and to end up as a dilettante of misfortune?—If a single sadness survives you, it is in vain that you have begged the deliverance of the inexorable night.

*

   To speak of eternity or to boast about it supposes a vitality of the time-organ, a secret homage to time, present by negation. To know being within eternity signifies clearly measuring her distance relative to oneself, being not completely within it. From the perspective of a living totality, of a present existence, consciousness always indicates an absence.
   It is only by living without the intermediary, naively, in eternity, that we vanquish the energy of the time-organ. Sanctity—an immediate of eternity—does not take pride in the path accomplished outside of the direct flowing of things, because it is eternity. At most can she confess herself to time, to lighten the excess of her own substance: the confessions of the saints have their source in the positive burden of eternity. Their books fall within time, like the stars do off the firmament. Excess of eternity on one side as on the other.

*

   The loss of naiveté engenders an ironic consciousness, that we cannot smother, not even by God’s side. We wobble in a gentle hysteria, telling everybody that we live… And everybody believes it.
   The becoming resembles an agony without epilogue, for the supreme is not a category of time.
   Deserts are the gardens of God. There he has been walking his fatigue forever, and it is there that our tormented momenta lament. Solitude is our common feature with Him—but with the devil too. Since the beginnings, they’ve been rivalizing in the art of being alone—and we’ve arrived late, even too late, for this fatal contest. When they retire from the arena, we will remain alone in solitude, and deserts won’t have space enough for the leap of death.

*

   Vulgarity is a means of purification equal to ecstasy—under the condition that there be suffering. The throes among refuse, filth, the terror of the suburbs, become sources of mysticism—and we are closer to the sky than by impassively looking up at the icon of a Madonna. Blasphemy is a religious act; kindness, a moral act. (Too well do we know that morality is only the civic aspect of our inclination towards the Absolute!)
   From the seething of the internal stenches, vapors rise up towards the azure. If you feel the need to, spit at the astral bodies, you will be nearer to their grandeur than by contemplating them with decorum and dignity. A turd reflects the sky more personally than crystalline water. And murky eyes have azure glimmers which defile the monotonous blue of innocence.
   What we usually call perfection offers a bland spectacle by the very absence of the throes of vulgarity. Models of perfection that the mortals propose themselves give a sentiment of insufficiency, of life not accomplished, not succeeded. The angels were recalled from circulation for this same motive: they did not know the sufferings of degradation, the mystic voluptions of putrescence. The ideal image of perfection must be modified, and morality will have to appropriate the advantages of decomposition to not remain an empty construction.
   Morality demands a purification: but of what? What in particular do we need to discard? Admittedly, vulgarity. But we can only discard it by living it to the end, till the last humiliation: it’s only after having exhausted all the possibilities of suffering that we can speak of purification. Evil does not die but by exhausting its vitality. This is why the triumph of morality requires the dolorous experience of mud: to drown in it is more pregnant with meaning than a superficial purification. Doesn’t decadence in itself have more depth than innocence? A “moral man” deserves his title only by virtue of the compromising titles acquired in his past.
   To succumb to temptation, isn’t it to fall into life? My God, let us succumb to temptation and deliver us from good!
  Every day’s prayer shall be an initiation to Wickedness, and the “Our Father” tear through the veil which covers it, so that, by facing it, familiars of perdition, we would be tempted by Good.
   Morality is lost because of its absence of mystery. Doesn’t good hide any secret?

*

   The discoloration of patience, the softening of instincts and all the dilution of the modern soul have untaught us the consolations of anger, and weakened within us the vitality of thought, whence emanates the art of blaspheming. Shakespeare and the Old Testament show men compared to whom we are infatuated monkeys and mousy gallants, who do not know how to fill space with their sufferings and their joys, provoke nature or God. Here is where a few centuries of education and wise dumbness have brought us! Yesteryear, the mortals cried, today they are bored. The cosmic explosion of consciousness has bowed to intimacy. Endure and croak! it’s the watchword of distinction for the modern man. Distinction—is the superstition of a corrupted genus. But the tension of the spirit demands a certain level of barbarity, without which the pillars of thought bend, a volcanic state that we shall calm only by desired cowardices. An idea which launches like a hymn, with the magic of delirium or fatality, as it happens in the incandescence of blasphemies—those tongues of fire of the spirit.
   The moderns are tepid, too tepid. Hasn’t the hour rung to learn of love and hate, as traces of nature within the soul? Blasphemy is a disproportionate provocation, and its strength increases as it extends towards the incommensurable: there is its final goal. When the words have pushed up against the wall, an individual, a people or nature, anger against the sky is what remains.
   Blasphemy is an attachment to life under the guise of destruction: a false nihilism. For we roar or throw thunderbolts only from the absolute of value. Job loves life with a compulsive passion, and King Lear leans against pride as against a divinity. All the prophets of the Old Testament fly into rages in the name of something, in the name of the people or of God. And in the name of nothingness, we may throw blasphemies if we adhere to it dogmatically: a pitiless and incendiary volley, an absolute in the direct style, a wave of destruction backed up with a certitude, avowed or not. Let an exasperation hide behind a belief or the titanism of the I, little does it matter to the wrath of blasphemy as it is. The level of the soul, the degree of passion of a being, here is the all. For in itself, blasphemy is nothing but lyrical dogmatism.

*

   To trample underfoot the delight of dying every day in oneself, to split in two the burden of being, to have an accomplice for deceptions! Woman commercializes the ununderstood and, in wedlock, shares of solitude are sold—blasphemy becomes merchandise. The source of sorrow in love is the fear of being loved, for the voluption of solitude surpasses the embraces. Woman does not move away willingly, but feels too readily that lucidity besmirches the trickery of the reciprocal ecstasy. She will indeed never understand how a man can be a churchgoer of woe, or in what manner her presence is harmful to the perfection of isolation. And yet she must go, go. And, after her departure, one seizes upon what a great error life is, with her and without her.
   If we could die in this world in the shade of woman, if her perfume were an emanation of melancholy for the dozing off of a heart torn away from the earth!

*

   There are some detachments of the world that besiege you all at once, like lethal breaths, when the wise men seem petty squirrels, and the saint’s abortive professors.

*

   The key to the inexplicable of our lot is the thirst for misfortune, profound and secret, and more durable than the frisky desire for happiness. If the latter predominated, how would we explain this vertiginous remoteness from paradise, and tragedy as our natural condition? The whole of history gives the blatant proof that man did not flee from suffering, but that he even invented snares so as not to escape its charm. If he did not like suffering, he wouldn’t have needed to invent hell—utopia of suffering. And if sometimes he favors, with a lot of ardor, paradise it was for its phantasmagoric aspect, for its guarantee of impracticability—an aesthetic utopia. But the “events” of history clearly show us what he took seriously…

*

   For a long time now, I no longer live in death, but in its poetry. One emerges thus in a flux of death and settles, dreamy, in a delicate agony, drunken with funereal smells. For death is like an oil which oozes in the invisible space of our renouncement to the world and cradles us with the painful deferment of extinction, suggesting to us that life is a virtual term, and the becoming an infinite potentiality of the end.

*

   Suffering: a way of being active without having to do anything. Fittingly, one cannot ask what life is, but what it isn’t.

*

   The desire of death starts like an obscure secretion of the organism and ends in a fainting fit of poetry. The voluptuous extinction of each day is a drowsiness in the blood. And that is tristesse itself.

*

   It is only after having suffered for all things that we have the right to laugh at them. How to trample something that has never suffered? (The meaning of universal irony.)

*

 The taste for solitude does not find a fulfillment more wholesome than in the overwhelming desire of death which, expanding beyond our resistance, even though we cannot die, becomes— by reaction—revelation of life.
   How could I forget that I am, when the excess of death unfastens me from death?
  I will discover life in its plenitude when I will start to think against me, when I will no longer be present in any thought…
  At the beginning, one considers death like a metaphysical reality. Later on, after having tasted it, after having grasped the shiver and the weight of it, one gets a feel for it. We then speak of the fear, the anguish and the agony, and no longer of death. Thus occurs the slide from metaphysics to psychology.

*

   Light seems more and more alien and remote; I look at it—and I shiver. What to seek within her when night is an aurora of thoughts?
   …But look, look at the light; how it crinkles and shatters in smithereens, each time one bends beneath its tristesse. Only the ruin of the day will help us elevate life to the rank of dream.
   Might the gentleness of death be anything other than a maximum of irreality? And the taste of poetry, the fusion within the phantomatic?
   There’s so much musical voluptuousness in the desire for death, that we will wish for immortality solely not to interrupt it. Or, if we could find a tombstone to continue experiencing it, dying ad infinitum in the desire for death! For no marine crepuscule, no terrestrial melody can replace the diffuse progression and the evanescent poetry of the act of dying.
   Nowhere else than in the old beds of the provincial hotels, or in the mistful atmosphere of the boulevards, is one better cradled by the suggestions of extinction, nor more disposed to get a taste of a final instant.
   Through death, man becomes a contemporary of himself.

*

  So as not to get bored, one must be a saint or an imbecile: the essential vacancy of consciousness defines the human condition. Boredom is a sort of unstable equilibrium. Between the void of the heart and that of the world, the equivalence of two voids, which would amount to immobility, were it not for the secret presence of desire. Illumination or bestialization—one by excess and the other by default—are situated outside the condition of man, therefore out of boredom’s reach. But can we be absolutely certain that the saints don’t sometimes get bored in God, and that the beasts—as their void-like glance reveals—do not also feel the vacuum of their ignorance?
   Man cannot dally for a whole life inside of boredom, though the latter is not a malady, but an absence of intensity. The void consecutive to a suffering or the frozen memory of a mishap; the streaming of silence to which a content cannot be given; insensitivity to eros and the regret of not winning her over—these are the states which compose the degradation of consciousness, and succeed to an intense emotion which can no longer reach them. No part of us is aching, yet we would prefer a precise suffering to this anguishing vague. Even malady is a content—and substantial—compared to the heavy and murky indifference of boredom, where one feels good; but one would rather prefer an honest malady. One misses suffering for its precision. Malady is an occupation, but boredom is not, which is why it resembles a deliverance from which we would like to deliver ourselves.
  The paradox of boredom: to be an absence to which we cannot remain exterior. Compared to malady: an unbearable health, irritating, a monotonous good which is only serious due to its interminable, indefinite character. A recovering that never ends… Boredom? An incurable convalescence.

*

   Life, in its positive sense, is a category of the possible. A fall-down into the future. The more windows we open onto it, the more we realize a plethora of the possible. Despair, inversely, is the negation of the possible, and therefore of life. Way more: it is the absolute intensity perpendicular to Nothingness.
   A thing is positive when it has an internal relation to the future, when it extends towards it. Life realizes itself fully by gaining a temporal plenitude. Despair amplifies by its own will, its intensity is a futureless possible, a negativity, a flaming dead-end. But, when we are able to open a window to despair, then life—invaded by itself—seems an unbridled grace, a whirlpool of smiles.

*

   “Foxes have dens and the birds of the sky nests; but the Sons of Man have nowhere to lay their head” (Luke, IX, 58). This confession of Jesus—which goes beyond, in solitude, Gethsemane— brings him closer to me than all the proofs of love that have assured him a quasi-eternal credit among mortals. The more different one is from men, the less place we have in this world so that the access to the divine separates you from solitude. The last of the beggars looks like a landlord in comparison to the terrestrial errand of Jesus. Men crucified him to find him a place, to tie him in a certain way to space, but they did not notice that, once upon the cross, the head reposes in the direction of the sky—in any case more towards the sky than towards the ground. And what is the Resurrection, if not the proof that a God, even when he’s dead, cannot rest in the world like a man who is no longer a man?
   A slab covered for three days the insomnia of Jesus. For I cannot imagine a dead God who would not be watching his death.
   Only those who slept during their life can see in death a sleep. The others, contaminated by their insomnia, will survive awake to their cinders or to their mocking skeleton!—When all the fibers have been impregnated by knowledge, nothing can make us believe any longer that we have ceased for a moment to be conscious. We find it explicable to die, but how to believe that we have ceased knowing and knowing ourselves? You’d think that never and nowhere will we rest our head …

*

Copyright Editions de L’Herne. No reproduction either online or in print without permission of the press and the translators.


Purdey Lord Kreiden Thomas Taren and Michael Thomas Taren Lord Kreiden’s armpits are blackmoons. They are the author of CHILDREN OF THE BAD HOUR and EUNUCHS (Ugly Duckling Presse) ROSEBUD (Jerkpoet, Fall 2015), and SCOLOPENDRUM (Action Books, Spring 2016). They are the muses of the painter-poet Louie Otesanek, who draws heads: http://otesanekbadhour.tumblr.com. They are the co-translator of Tony Duvert’s ATLANTIC ISLAND (Semiotext(e), Fall 2015), MATED, by Joris-Karl Huysmans (Wakefield Press, Fall 2016), and DUST PINK by Jean-Jacques Schuhl (Semiotext(e), forthcoming) They are currently working on a free verse translation of the complete poems of Leconte de Lisle. Their video works can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/user/purdeyk. They can usually be found feasting in one of the nights of the 101001 nights at 1thousandand101001nights.tumblr.com. Together they are Daphne Augustus: https://twitter.com/DaphneAugustus, and David Lindsay’s shepards: ssyrinxs.tumblr.com.

 

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gobbet is a literary magazine dedicated to publishing the very best experimental poetry and prose. Intellectual perversity and explorations of dark themes are positively encouraged. We are only interested in work that is progressively experimental. We want to see risks, and we want to see them pay. No previously published work. Prose should not be longer than 1000 words. There are always exceptions. Send 3-5 poems. Include a short bio. Send submissions to gobbetmag@hotmail.co.uk Work will be published every 5-10 days. We also intend to publish anthologies of selected work published in gobbet. We will do our best to reply promptly. Most submissions will receive a decision within a month.
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