E.M. Cioran on The Expatriate Writer
by Florence Sunnen
“The man who has lost everything preserves as a last resort the hope of glory, or of literary scandal. He consents to abandon everything, except his name. But how will he impose his name when he writes in a language of which the cultivated are either ignorant or contemptuous?
Will he venture into another idiom? It will not be easy for him to renounce the words on which his past hinges. A man who repudiates his language for another changes his identity, even his disappointments. Heroic apostate, he breaks with his memories and, to a certain point, with himself.
And the man without a country becomes – or aspires to become – a novelist. The consequence: an accumulation of confusions, an inflation of horrors, of frissons that date. […] Nothing in literature exasperates a reader so much as The Terrible; in life, it is too tainted with the obvious to rouse our interest. But our author persists; for the time being he buries his novel in a drawer and awaits his hour. THe illusion of a surprise, of a renown which eludes his grasp but on which he reckons, sustains him; he lives on unreality. Such, however, is the power of this illusion that if, for instance, he works in some factory, it is with the notion of being freed from it one day or another by a fame as sudden as it is inconceivable.”
E.M. Cioran – “Advantages of Exile” in The Temptation to Exist (Transl. from French: Richard Howard)