The Arty Semite

Cioran and the Jews Redux

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share
Isaías Enrique González Romero

As the centenary of the Romanian-born French writer Emil Cioran winds down, further attention honors the author who died in 1995, including “All Gall is Divided: The Aphorisms of E. M. Cioran” translated by Richard Howard, due out in March from Arcade Publishing, and a hefty collected works of over 1700 pages, out from Gallimard’s Bibliothèque de la Pléiade series.

The latter followed a fascinating collection of essays, “Cioran and his Contemporaries,” published by Les Éditions Pierre-Guillaume de Roux. Many of these contemporaries are Jewish friends of the author, including Jeannine Worms, who was born to a French Jewish family in Buenos Aires in 1923. Worms, who died in 2006, was a delightful playwright and prose writer whose longtime friendship with Cioran was not swayed by posthumously published revelations that in his 20s, he was briefly transfixed by prewar Romanian Fascism.

In pages excerpted from her still-unpublished “Memoirs of a Dazed Woman,” Worms recounts that during “almost forty years of friendship” Cioran never displayed anti-Semitism, and the notion of his adhering to any doctrine whatsoever seems impossible:

He was not only skeptical… but a fanatic skeptic.

Indeed, Worms writes, Cioran often lamented that he “had missed out on the misfortune of being Jewish” which would have made him a “complete human being.” Worms recounts that late in life when Cioran visited the gravesite of his friend Samuel Beckett in the Montparnasse cemetery, he scribbled a message on a piece of paper which he then rolled up and inserted in a crevice of Beckett’s gravestone, “as Jews do when standing in front of [Jerusalem’s] Western Wall.”

“Cioran and his Contemporaries” also includes a chapter by philosopher Manuel de Diéguez, underling similarities in sensibility between Cioran and the French Jewish author Romain Gary as harsh critics of the Catholic Church. An essay by French-born American author Édouard Roditi describes how Cioran admired Jewish authors from German sociologist Georg Simmel to Romanian poet Benjamin Fondane. The latter, an intimate friend of Cioran’s who was murdered at Auschwitz, is termed by Cioran a “noble man living in a sinister era” in the new collection. In 1946, Cioran writes to Fondane’s widow after an Auschwitz survivor had published a reminiscence of the poet’s death: “It’s such a tragic and heart-rending tale for those of us who knew and loved Fondane that I was cross with the author for having published it. Afterwards, ‘being alive’ feels despicable.”

Watch part of a French TV documentary on Cioran.

Documental sobre Cioran 1/5 from DeQueVa on Vimeo.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Emil Cioran, Jeannine Worms, Manuel de Diéguez, Richard Howard

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.