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The Collective Ruin

October 27, 2010

The current NY Review of Books has a very engrossing article on the Romainian-born philosopher E.M Cioran by Charles Simic. (“Insomnia’s Philosopher”, NYRB, Nov. 11, 2010). The piece discusses Cioran’s early fascination with National Socialism stemming from his stay in Germany from 1933-5. According to the always interesting Mr. Simic, Cioran’s romance with German fascism had much to do with his despair over the dodgy nationalism available in his perpetually beknighted Romanian homeland as his (Cioran’s) lifelong inability to get a good night’s sleep.

In one stunning paragraph Simic provides a remarkable summation of Cioran’s description of Hitler’s appeal:

His (Hitler’s) merit, Cioran amazingly claimed, consisted of having stolen the critical spirit of the nation with his capacity to seduce. This, he further stated, was “the dramatic destiny of any visionary, dictator, or prophet.” What he witnessed both enchanted and horrified him and made him question the fragility of the instinct of liberty in mankind. Human beings, he told his readers, both aspire to liberty and exult each time they lose it. He saw Germans raise their hands toward their leader, asking impatiently to be enslaved and be led to their collective ruin.

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