4 out of 4 stars
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In Tormented by God: The Mystic Nihilism of Emil Cioran, Mirko Integlia presents an in-depth study of French-Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran’s work, especially his stance on God and religion. The author offers readers a fascinating glimpse into the restless mind of this prolific thinker, born in 1911. His tormented nature gets exemplified by the following quote: “I am of a deeply unbelieving and deeply religious nature: a man without certainties…”
The author begins by analyzing Cioran’s formative years, between World War I and World War II, when he was a young student at the University of Bucharest. Cioran moved to Berlin in 1933, and in 1937 he settled definitively in Paris. At the time, there was a general climate of disenchantment in Europe. An anti-rationalist, pessimistic sentiment opposed the ideals of Enlightenment and rationalism. The author correlates the pervasive nihilistic spirit of Cioran’s first book, On the Heights of Despair, published when he was just 23, with that of other writers such as Sartre and Camus. He argues that Cioran was a predecessor of French existentialism.
In my opinion, the best feature of this scholarly title is the dissection of Cioran’s religiosity. I appreciated the way the author argues that mysticism was the flip side of Cioran’s nihilistic viewpoints, and his traumatic experience with insomnia factored in. What begins as an academic review of the philosopher’s works turns into a far richer exploration of his leanings towards gnostic mysticism and even Buddhism. But this aspect is not overwhelming enough to alienate an open-minded Christian reader.
I liked how the author left no stone unturned. He courageously and soberly explored Cioran’s affinity with Nazism. Integlia outlines how the anti-Jewish sentiment was common among European university students, and anti-Semitism was a religious facet of the nationalistic movement. I was glad to see that, after World War II, Cioran considered the ideas he previously expressed about Jews to be unacceptable.
Above all, I enjoyed the description of Cioran’s love for music, particularly Bach. The philosopher felt that he could conceive the existence of God as he listened to Bach’s Goldberg Variations: “Sun everywhere. In the Luxembourg gardens, I closed my eyes and let myself go to the echo elicited in me by this 'superessential' music (to speak like a mystic).”
In closing, I rate Tormented by God: The Mystic Nihilism of Emil Cioran 4 out of 4 stars. There was nothing I disliked about it. The book looks professionally edited – I only found a couple of minor mishaps. It will surely appeal to readers who are fond of philosophy. If you feel disenchanted by the current sociopolitical outlook, you might relate to the discussion. Be warned that the themes are rather dark, especially concerning suicidal ideation. For this reason, I don’t believe it’s an adequate read for teenagers.
Tormented by God
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