CIORAN: A REFLECTION ON DECADENCE AS A LIFESTYLE
I started this study from a basic observation formulated by the vast exegesis dedicated to the work of the philosopher Emil Cioran: his philosophy seems to spring from a practice, from a particular endorsement of a lifestyle, drawing to a series of emblematic gestures, the most prominent of all being the refusal of social integration. Nevertheless, this refusal goes hand in hand with the need to be validated, through an intense activity in terms of reading and writing, within the host culture (the French); also, it implies a refusal of new citizenship redoubled by enfranchisement through culture, etc. Appealing to a famous poem by Verlaine, it seemed to me necessary to restore a defining gesture that focuses on the ontological status of the Romanian philosopher: labeling as “decadent” the apparently contradictory position of the “barbarian”, whose voice brings echoes from a “small” and recent culture (the Romanian). Thus, I analyzed the way in which Emil Cioran translates into a form of life/ lifestyle the philosophical elements that marked his formative trajectory through Oswald Spengler’s work, The Decline of the West. In order to analyze Cioran’s identification with the Decadent movement, I also addressed Friedrich Nietzsche’s work, which offered more clues concerning Decadence and decay, in particular, for Cioran’s style of philosophical reflection, for his idea of “thinking” through the body, and for his attention to a particular metabolism. As case studies, I chose Emil Cioran’s essay On France and his lesser- known youth articles collected in the volume, The Revelations of Sorrow. The first essay highlights the fact that we need to rethink the morphology of culture from the perspective of life forms associated with specific stylizations of everyday life. The other youth articles enhance the fact that the Bohemian lifestyle should be reconsidered thoroughly because it mirrors the most specific modalities of the French culture and civilization. In conclusion, I analyzed a part of Cioran’s reflection not only as an instance when a life form is assumed (the Bohemian style), but also as a form of life interbreeding a prestigious cultural form (the French culture) and the philosopher’s own type of sensitivity (decadence).
Keywords: Decadence, Lifestyle, Aestheticism Fin de Siècle, Sickness, Bohemia.