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A Short History of Decay by E. M. Cioran

Updated: Dec 27, 2023

“Chaos is rejecting all you have learned. Chaos is being yourself.”

It’s a rare thing to find in a loyally-pessimistic writer the bridge that connects wisdom with nothingness. Cioran writes about heroes and hermits alike. He shines the torch on the uncertainty, incompetence, and excesses of both. And the way they breed in humanity a need for religion, organization, and discipline.

A Short History of Decay - Emile Cioran book review

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The book explains why myth and history manifest the ‘us’ of the world. This concept of unity and laboring humanity is the antidote to the ‘I’ that exists innately and primitively. It’s the way that we construct an architecture of calculated despair and suffering. The antidote to which, its medicine, is the hope of Fate; be it hope to overcome the dizzying nothingness of yesterday, today, or tomorrow. Or to hope that the wellspring of words and tears weigh higher against that which we have already lost on the day we were born.

All of existence and existing, being and becoming, life and living is a method to analyze the monstrosity the lies between birth and death. To reclaim what we don’t understand only so that we never have to. To be born and to die are fundamental truths. While the “truths of beauty are fed on exaggerations,” the notion that to resign to happiness, success, and normality is absurd. The evidence of which creates false gods, fabricated fictions, and feverishly grotesque ideals to live up to. A Short History of Decay is the history of imagination, rationality, and myth. Intelligent, intuitive, and melancholic; Cioran penetrates the despair of humanity, anticipates the brutal expectations of it, and finally when all perception is void, and nothingness prevails over the scales of time and fate, he grants us the confidence of possessing an “I.” The loneliness of it and the unburdening of everything else.


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