In This Review

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
By Marta Petreu
Ivan R. Dee, 2005, 348 pp

To confront ideas so opposed to the aspirations of liberal democracy, so unapologetically anti-Semitic, elitist, and authoritarian, startles one at first. But then the encounter stirs curiosity, until one recognizes in these ideas a fleeting contemporary echo, which makes them even more unsettling. Cioran, an errant Romanian intellectual provided fascism with one of its most powerful and disturbing paeans in his 1936 book, The Transfiguration of Romania. After 1941, having fled his country and his native language for Paris and French, he spent the next 54 years swearing off politics in an attempt to separate himself from his youthful "error." Petreu, a historian of Romanian philosophy, is a sure and unobtrusive guide to the fevered, alienated milieu that turned Cioran, an apolitical philosopher of history and culture, into a passionate partisan of Hitler, Mussolini, and Lenin, filled with contempt for the lassitude and failings of Romania's crippled democracy and enraptured by the creative potential of the irrational, the unconstrained, and the ruthless.