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A Short History of Decay
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A Short History of Decay

4.3  ·  Rating Details ·  1,700 Ratings  ·  90 Reviews
A Short History of Decay (1949) is E. M. Cioran's nihilistic and witty collection of aphoristic essays concerning the nature of civilization in mid-twentieth-century Europe. Touching upon Man's need to worship, the feebleness of God, the downfall of the Ancient Greeks and the melancholy baseness of all existence, Cioran's pieces are pessimistic in the extreme, but also dis ...more
Paperback, Penguin Modern Classics, 192 pages
Published by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 1949)
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Bill  Kerwin
Aug 29, 2016 Bill Kerwin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

A series of epigrammatic reflections on how things fall apart. This is a bleak, atheistic book, but it is strangely comforting and even humorous in its unembarrassed nihilism.

Characteristic Cioran quotes:

"Anyone who speaks in the name of others is always an imposter."

"By all evidence we are in the world to do nothing."

"Chaos is rejecting all you have learned, Chaos is being yourself."
A Short History of Decay is an unbridled celebration of nihilism. Cioran writes with an almost theatrical degree of cynicism: his commitment to persistently wrenching the most pessimistic conclusion from any proposition is often hilarious in its melodramatic absurdity. His philosophy is one of absolute futility, in which suicide is the most noble act, and any motion towards civilisation, culture or the pursuit of knowledge is entirely misguided.

While I enjoyed his acerbic commentaries on Christ
Jun 25, 2010 Szplug rated it it was amazing
The hermeneutics of the void via prose poetry. Declared anathema: faith, love, action, dogma, suicide, living, hope. Deemed exemplary: laughter, cynicism, poetry, inertia, acceptance of death and the futility of existence, doubt. Cioran is a diagnostician of decay, the type to carouse with madmen, crooks, layabouts, and roués—to hold that Jesus ruined the tragedy of his crucifixion by appending it with his resurrection, thus imbuing his followers with the dream of eternal life, an abhorrent and ...more
Oct 01, 2014 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every work of philosophy is either overtly or surreptitiously constructing an ideal type. In the works of Locke and Hume, for instance, not only are the rudiments of modern empiricism being forged, a type of individuality is as well. This individual would be commonsensical, abreast of limitations and doubtful of any positive claim beyond that which is factually demonstrable. Such an individual would be receptive to empiricism not because they understood it better than other philosophies but beca ...more
If you think you hate life, or maybe just the world around you this book will make you kick yourself repeatedly for being just too much of a goddamn optimist. This is one bleak and beautiful book. How Cioran could live with thoughts like these and not end his own life is beyond me, but like a character out of Beckett he continues going on. This is the second book of his that I've read and it's even darker than his more youthful and lighthearted Tears and Saints which was really not the kind of b ...more
Asiye Dilara Han
Oct 10, 2016 Asiye Dilara Han rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cioran'ı çok seveceğimi düşünerek başlamıştım bu kitaba. Birçok düşüncesini desteklesem de sanırım sevmeyeceğim tek bir düşüncesiyle dahi karşılacağımı aklıma getirmediğim için karşılaştıkça şaşırdım, uzaklaştım, anca bitti kitap. Onu okumadan önce sadece katıldığım fikirlerine rastlamışım demek ki sağda solda. Algıda seçiciliğin de bir nebze etkisi var tabii. Tutarlılığı ve açıklayışı çok hoşuma gitti ama. Zaten ayrıldığımız noktalar da birleştiğimiz noktalara kıyasla çok az. Yani tabii ki Cior ...more
Matthew W
This book is BEYOND pessimism and nihilism! I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone that thinks positively about their future or anyone that is part of a national movement. E.M. Cioran makes no lie that he has given up on existence (aside from writing of course!).
Jan 13, 2013 Tilly rated it really liked it
"Anyone who speaks in the name of others is always an imposter."

"By all evidence we are in the world to do nothing."

Reading E. M. Cioran's aphoristic musings on the decay of modern society is not easy on the soul, but is made bearable by his beautiful turns of phrase and concise explanations (despite the fact that he uses more ellipses than a teenager on facebook chat). Cioran's essays on human life basically rest on proving its innate absurdity. God is a failure (until he created Bach), enthusi
Feb 20, 2010 Bradley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant masterpiece. Says so much with such artistry. Think - Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco but flavored with full-blown nihilistic humor. Cioran has me convinced by about the first paragraph that life is absurd, God wasted was a complete failure until he created Bach and totally redeemed himself, people who live in monasteries are egotistical because they care more about their own souls than living with the rest of us... only the skeptics and the decadent roman emperors had living figur ...more
Jan 10, 2015 sologdin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
not seeing the appeal. overt fascist muses on decadence. how many motherfuckers died to extinguish this kind of self-obsessed bullshit?
Jun 08, 2008 Tosh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nihilism as a creative act! One of the great books to have by your bedside, just to remind you what kind of world we live in. Superb!
Nov 11, 2015 Christopher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It is a very rare thing that a philosopher can write well stylistically. Even if I disagreed with everything said here it would have gotten 5 stars for its prose alone.

Of course, I did still agree with at least half of it, so that helps.
Alex Sarll
Well, this one took a while for such a slim volume. But even aside from being an aphoristic work of philosophy (seldom the sort of thing to benefit from being read at speed), it's hard powering through a book which is one long sigh. A hymn to the futility of everything - including thinking you've gained anything by having noticed the futility of everything - it's torn between Cioran's desire to fade away, and his envy for the great monsters of history. At times, especially when he's compellingly ...more
This I bought and started reading in Romania itself, albeit in translation. I balked pretty hard, like an alpha-male chicken, when I saw immediately, right on the back cover, that the author flew into Romania after fascists took power, to congratulate them.

He does read like someone who went to Paris for inspiration, stayed fo the nightlife, only to regress to cynicism when certainty suits him. I'd have liked to read further for the comedy factor, since he follows long nihilistic digressions with
Jay Green
Aug 29, 2016 Jay Green rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love Cioran's writing but confess that he makes me laugh out loud, much in the same way that de Sade's attempts to shock raise a chuckle and the Handsome Family's modern American Gothic appeal to my Irish/English sense of the ridiculous. I simply cannot take him seriously, and for the reader, such an attitude becomes liberating: you can simply revel in the use of language and the daring with which he expresses the most life-negating ideas. They become hilarious, a joy to read. A delight.
David Peak
Oct 30, 2014 David Peak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"As incompetent in life as in death, I loathe myself and in this loathing I dream of another life, another death. And for having sought to be a sage such as never was, I am only a madman among the mad..."
Jul 06, 2015 aaron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nothing quite like clearing out the mental and emotional detritus of one phase of life with the neural sandblast-treatment that is some Cioran. Cioran's thought and writing can only adequately be described as 'pleasantly exhausting': no other thinker in the history of Western philosophy has so systematically contemplated the logical endpoints of nihilism, skepticism, pessimism, abnegation, and despair. And yet, published as a collection in 1949, this series of aphoristic essays is far from a Jer ...more
May 03, 2013 Dale rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hide all firearms, sharp objects, and anything that could be twisted into a rope prior to delving into this one! To say it's a "downer" is an understatement of epic proportions but it's a fascinating read all the same. 80% of the time I had no real clue what Cioran was saying so I approached it as if it were Joyce's Finnegan's Wake -- hang on, let the words roll over you, and pray that something sticks along the way.

Did I finish the book? Nope, but I'm not sure anyone could at one go without up
Aug 04, 2007 Richard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This guy is best aphorist since Nietzsche, though that isn't saying much since there's not a lot of competition. One of the most misanthropic books I've ever read. I hear his others are more of the same. I'm psyched.
Kadi Kolk
Feb 10, 2015 Kadi Kolk rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not recommended to read the entire text in a day. Alert: too much decadence and nihilism. But one essay a day will probably keep the doctor away. Worth reading.
Chris Jones
Sep 07, 2015 Chris Jones rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
a changing...the most readable book of philosophy ever written...pure poetry!
Ferda Nihat Koksoy
Feb 10, 2016 Ferda Nihat Koksoy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Tarih, bir Sahte Mutlaklar Geçidi'nden, bir İdeal İmalathanesi'nden, bahaneler adına dikilmiş bir tapınaklar dizisinden, zihnin Gayri Muhtemel önünde küçülmesinden ibarettir. Akıl Tanrıçası'nın, ulus, sınıf ya da ırk fikrinin yol açtığı aşırılıklar, Engizisyon'un yada Reform'unkilerle akrabadır.
Yazılı tarih, en az kendisini yaratan olaylar kadar insanlıkdışıdır.

(Kuşkuculuk okulunun kurucusu) Pyrrhon'un yanında, kendimi bir Aziz Paul'un yanında olduğundan daha güvenlikte hissede
Apr 08, 2015 Razi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Despair was never so consistently depicted, sustained for so many pages without a glimmer of hope in anything. The author lambasts every single thing imaginable. Starting with prophecy and religion, he carves up humanity, history, genius, art, literature, goodness, virtue, peace, saints, Jesus and even himself. Nothing is spared. Everything is depicted as an evil influence on mankind. He praises music and Satan on a few occasions but apart from that, everything is a fair target for his pessimism ...more
Nov 03, 2015 B rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
This isn't a book you linearly read-through. It's a collection of aphorisms through which one can read at one's leisure in no particular order. But unlike, say, Schopenhauer's Essays and Aphorisms, the first section of which, Studies in Pessimism, can be extracted, published as a stand-alone volume, and read in one sitting as a sustained meditation on a single theme; and unlike Fernando Pessoa's Book of Disquiet, which, though disparately assembled, is permeated throughout by a pervasive and end ...more
Douglas Dalrymple
Jul 21, 2015 Douglas Dalrymple rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brief review below, but you can read a longer reflection on my blog.

In Pragmatism William James writes that “the potentest of all our premises is never mentioned,” referring to the inborn temperament that so powerfully shapes our individual perceptions. Like a miscalibrated scale, we weigh the objects of the world without perceiving the bias which leads us inevitably into idiosyncrasy, mistaking the subjective for the objective and the relative for the absolute. I couldn’t help but remember this
Bogdan Liviu
May 12, 2016 Bogdan Liviu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cioran
Dacă în ierarhia minciunilor viața ocupă primul loc, iubirea îi urmează nemijlocit, minciună în minciună. Expresie a poziției noastre hibride, ea se înconjoară cu felurite beatitudini şi chinuri, prin care găsim în altul un substitut pentru noi înşine. Prin ce înşelăciune doi ochi ne smulg din singurătate? Există eşec mai umilitor pentru spirit? Iubirea adoarme cunoaşterea; trezită, cunoaşterea ucide iubirea. Irealitatea nu poate triumfa la nesfârşit, chiar travestită în cea mai exaltantă minciu ...more
First, let's consider the book in and of itself. Beautifully written, there's no doubt about that, and beautifully written in the same way as Nietzsche or Kierkegaard. As for the ideas... well, a lot of them are interesting, but at the same time, they're also melodramatic, contradictory, and quite often just silly.

Next, let's consider Cioran l'homme. As a fellow morose bastard, I should sympathize with his general bad vibes, but we should consider that he was a more or less unrepentant fascist a
Mar 05, 2014 Salim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Biz sonuncularız: Gelecekten, daha fazla da kendimizden bezdik; toprağın suyunu sıktık ve gökleri soyup soğana çevirdik. Artık düşlerimizi madde de ruh da besleyemez: Bu evren yüreklerimiz kadar kurumuş. Artık hiçbir yerde cevher yok: Atalarımız bize paçavraya dönmüş ruhlarını ve kurtlanmış iliklerini bıraktı. Macera son buluyor; bilinç can çekişiyor; ezgilerimiz uçup gitti; ölenlerin güneşi parlıyor işte!
Sep 01, 2016 Rene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nimetage mulle üksainus juhtum mille kaitseks ei leidu ühtegi argumenti. Põrguadvokaatidel on samavõrd õigus tõele kui taevastel kaitsjatel.

Kui meil jätkuks julgust tunnistada oma arglikke kõhklusi iseenda osas, ei saaks keegi meist lausuda "mina", ilma seejuures silmi maha löömata.
Sep 08, 2016 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
And I think of an ideal moralist - a combination of cynicism and lyric ardor - exalted and icy, vague and incisive...
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Born in 1911 in Rasinari, a small village in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, raised under the rule of a father who was a Romanian Orthodox priest and a mother who was prone to depression, Emil Cioran wrote his first five books in Romanian. Some of these are collections of brief essays (one or two pages, on average); others are collections of aphorisms. Suffering from insomnia since his adoles ...more
More about Emil Cioran...

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“Chaos is rejecting all you have learned, Chaos is being yourself.” 258 likes
“The true hero fights and dies in the name of his destiny, and not in the name of a belief.” 39 likes
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