cover image An Infamous Past: E.M. Cioran and the Rise of Fascism in Romania

An Infamous Past: E.M. Cioran and the Rise of Fascism in Romania

Marta Petreu, , trans. from the Romanian by Bogdan Aldea, foreword by Norman Manea. . Ivan R. Dee, $30 (332pp) ISBN 978-1-56663-607-0

Romanian poet, philosopher and editor Petreu shows in this dense but fresh work that many Romanian intellectuals were seduced by fascist ideology during the interwar years—and that philosopher Cioran, an "aphorist of humorous despair," was haunted by this legacy for the rest of his life. Petreu details the ultranationalist, pro-Christian ideology of the Legion of the Archangel Michael, a movement of intellectuals that gained prominence in Romania after WWI. As with many ideologies of the era, Petreu writes, anti-Semitism lay at the movement's core. Cioran's own ideology, rooted in the wish to turn Romania's "depressing present into a grandiose future," included a more complex view of Jews, outlined in his 1936 The Transfiguration of Romania . He envied what he saw as Jewish productivity in government, business and the arts. But Petreu shows how his outlook, adapted from Spengler, also necessitated hostility toward Jews and other non-Romanians. Cioran left Romania after WWII and became ashamed of his earlier fascism, but Petreu mines his life for lessons to be learned today about how good intentions can lead to extremism. (Nov. 4)