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This text should be read in its historical context and be taken lightly.

I very much like two lines:

l'univers est une farce de l'esprit

This illustrates France's 'a-cosmique' take on life very well, as its bourgeois ideal. It contrasts very much with Germany's (today) much more down-to-earth ways that often lack elegance or style while there's much admiration for France's airy-fairy 'Art-de-Vivre'.

I disagree with P. Ayme above who claims that Cioran compares the French with the Nazis unless he considers that German and Nazi are synonymous.

Rien ne blesse plus l'intelligence que le patriotisme.

So true!

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Thu Jun 11th, 2009 at 04:47:08 PM EST
"This text should be read in its historical context and be taken lightly"

You will allow me to disagree - this text is definitely not designed for the purely analythical mind :) To me, the "felt", the spiritual side to Cioran's view about the French spirit is at least as important as the rational side.

Moreover, I suspect that upon reading this, most French today would agree and even feel pride of being French, from reasons which would fully confirm Cioran ! :)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Jun 11th, 2009 at 05:05:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Okay, there is a felt, spiritual side to Cioran's writings but they were valid in their time. While he describes Frenchness that flatters the French still today, he also holds firm views about how the German character differs from that.

Now, it is no flattery to tell Germans that they have bad taste, even if German taste doesn't compare to how French will define taste. Cioran couldn't possibly have written anything pleasant about German taste in 1941 unless he himself had been a Nazi.

That's the 'tangled' part of the story: the historical context and his timeless, genuine perception of people within that context. This is why I beg to differ from P. Ayme when he says Cioran compares the French with Nazis.

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Thu Jun 11th, 2009 at 05:24:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"pour les Allemands, les banalités sont considérées comme l 'honorable substance de la conversation..."

That is not flattering. Il me plait davantage d'imaginer que Cioran denonce ici plus les Nazis que les Allemands. Pour l'essentiel du reste, comme Valentin remarque, Cioran tourne la force essentielle de la culture francaise en une faiblesse... Parcequ'il regarde la defaite, l'accident....

Patrice Ayme Patriceayme.com Patriceayme.wordpress.com http://tyranosopher.blogspot.com/

by Patrice Ayme on Thu Jun 11th, 2009 at 10:44:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think his statement about German lack of taste was more in the direction of Germans possessing a "sense of practicality", a spirit turned to functionality, rather than unwielded artsy stuff - someone recently wrote to me about that same thing.
Cioran obviously writes from the French point of view, and I for one see absolutely nothing in his text reminding of the nazi occupation. If I cut out the year, I doubt any one could have recognized it.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Jun 12th, 2009 at 08:44:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
as you point out. Namely he mostly says the French are hyper critical, that's the only religion and affectionate respect for a behavior that they truly have. As you point out, most of today'sFrench would pretty much be proud of this. Indeed so, and it would be right.

So Cioran is right on the fundamental. He is now wrong on some very interesting evolutions, such as France getting empty of people. That was true in the 150 years before 1945... France natality took a dive, whereas the German one skyrocketed (so Germany ended up with about twice France's 40 millions)... Now it's the exact opposite. Maybe the French spirit, of hyper criticism, was too much to bear,then, but it feels more comfortable now.

Now this French hyper criticism is becoming a rampart against nihilism and also a rampart against the sort of financial abuse and disaster we saw last year (and still ongoing). So the French are feeling better with themselves.

Cioran misattributed France's defeat to France's hyper criticism. It's quite the opposite. Because of hyper criticism, France was well, hypercritical of the Nazis, so was more ready to fight the Nazis than any other democracy. France should have won in 1940, and the Nazis knew it, so they tried a desperate plan, which, in conjunction with bad luck and extremely incompetent tactics on the French side, while Guderian used secretly the ten Panzer division as a sport car on drugs (literally!),led to an extremely accidental defeat.

The defeat was just an accident. What was not accidental, though, is that the Nazis, as they sat in Paris and all over France with 60 divisions, became infused with the French spirit, and increasingly critical of the home office. In the coup of July 1944, the Wehrmacht locked up the SS in France (a tech term: they seized key SS installations, immobilizing the Waffen SS divisions). By 1944, the Nazi Rommel had put a warrant of arrest against the Nazi SS officer that ordered Oradour...

The spirit lives from the critique, and the more critique, the more spirit....

Patrice Ayme Patriceayme.com Patriceayme.wordpress.com http://tyranosopher.blogspot.com/

by Patrice Ayme on Thu Jun 11th, 2009 at 11:10:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is more than just hypercriticism, I think. And I tend to think Cioran mentioned the "dépeuplement" figuratively - at least this passage seems to indicate it:

"Engendrer des mythes et y adhérer, lutter, souffrir et mourir pour eux, voilà qui révèle la fécondité d'un peuple. Les "idées" de la France ont été des idées vitales, pour la validité desquelles on s'est battu corps et âme. Si elle conserve un rôle décisif dans l'histoire spirituelle de l'Europe, c'est parce qu'elle a animé plusieurs idées, qu'elle les a tirées du néant abstrait de la pure neutralité. Croire signifie animer.

In my understanding, the problem seems to be about "vital ideas", ideals, that France produced and defended in the past (le vrai "rayonnement") and would now be missing. On the contrary, since the '50s France contented copying each and every cultural product of the US - from blue-jeans and country music via Hollywood to the libertarianist ideas of the '60s. What is The Genuine French spiritual or intellectual creation of the last 50 years ?

The part about the germans in Paris is interesting. I've seen a book and several comments about French collaborating with the occupier (and women more than collaborating), but not the converse. Interesting.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Jun 12th, 2009 at 08:57:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Rien ne blesse plus l'intelligence que le patriotisme"

Faut faire attention à ce genre de phrase. En effet rien ne nous indique si Cioran assume cet énoncé lui même, ou il est juste en train de le citer comme exemple de trait d'esprit typiquement français :)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Jun 11th, 2009 at 05:10:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I deliberately picked out this sentence and like it as it is. It may not be a helpful mantra for soldiers; hence it's part of Cioran's criticism.

I do not believe that those who win a battle are categorically right. Patriotism will 'win' wars but harm a person's soul; "rien ne blesse plus l'intelligence que le patriotisme".

In how far does C.'s criticism also harbour admiration for the French? Isn't it full of admiration?

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Thu Jun 11th, 2009 at 05:40:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
never ever suggest that "German" and "Nazi" are synonymous. Quite the opposite.

I do deeply believe that fascism was an accident, a terrible one, in the history of modern Germany. I systematically refuse to use the word "German" for WWII, preferring the more correct noun for the people who invaded, National-socialists (and some changed in character, for example Edwin Rommel started the war as a Nazi, and finished with a coup against Hitler).

It seems to me that the description Cioran makes, Friedrich Nietzsche, say, would have grated his teeth, as he did, and a lot (Nietzsche saw the accident of fascism happened, and predicted that terrible wars would follow as a result). As you pointed out, Cioran was influenced, in this remarkable text, by the accident of history that had just happened.  

Patrice Ayme Patriceayme.com Patriceayme.wordpress.com http://tyranosopher.blogspot.com/

by Patrice Ayme on Thu Jun 11th, 2009 at 10:10:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
let's point out that to put the French spirit in comparison with the Nazi spirit is beyond silly. Why not compare the Jews with the Eichmans?

Il me plait davantage d'imaginer que Cioran denonce ici plus les Nazis que les Allemands.

never ever suggest that "German" and "Nazi" are synonymous. Quite the opposite.

Vous supposez que Cioran dénonce ici plus les Nazis que les Allemands mais c'est une interprétation que vous choisissez, une interprétation osée. Lorsque Cioran observe les allemands, il les observe tels qu'ils sont en son époque. Certes, il dénonce le nazisme mais il ne différencie pas entre le (vrai ?) caractère allemand et le nazisme que les allemands auraient adoptés par accident.

En 1941, tout est encore possible, aussi que cet accident mène les allemands à la victoire, imposant le nazisme au reste du monde.

Or, dénonce-t-il le caractère authentique des allemands ou des allemands nazis ? Il éprouve de la méprise face aux faiblesses du caractère allemand, propices aux allemands de son époque. Pour lui, allemand et nazi sont synonymes. Le sont-ils pour nous aujourd'hui ? Non.
Aujourd'hui, les allemands ont des traits caractéristiques qui ne sont pas tout à fait opposés aux traits qui les marquaient à l'époque, sans pour autant être imbibé dans le nazisme.

De même, la force essentielle de la culture française que Cioran semble admirer ne peut être répliquée dans notre temps. Il faut tenir en compte le contexte historique et l'évolution de la culture française qui a été marquée par l'après-guerre, ses propres guerres, l'immigration. La société française s'est transformée. Le discours de Cioran révèle des idéaux passés auxquels certains français sont toujours attachés. Serait-cela un précurseur qui mènerait à la défaite comme jadis ?

La France me semble inhibée par sa force essentielle. Cette force repose sur des valeurs essentielles, éternelles. Elle s'oppose au change, à l'ouverture et en est fière. Cette disposition entraîne des problèmes sociaux sur le plan national et elle est un facteur déstabilisant à l'international. Ses ennemies le savent. Ses illusions (de grandeur) font aussi sont charme, lui emportant de l'admiration, et elles sont sa plus grande faiblesse.

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Fri Jun 12th, 2009 at 03:49:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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