Supremacy of the Adjective.
Emile Cioran.

As it must not be but a restricted number of positions in front of the last problems, spirit is found limited in its expansion by that natural limit that it is the essential, by that impossibility of indefinitely multiplying the main difficulties: history is only busied in changing the face of a quantity of questions and solutions. What the spirit invents is not more than a series of new qualifications; it baptizes again the elements or seeks in its lexical less used epithets for a same and unchanging pain. It always has suffered, but the suffering has been or "sublime" or "fair" or "absurd", according to the set vision that the philosophical moment supported. Misfortune constitutes the trap of all what it breathes; but its modalities have evolved: they have composed that irreducible appearances succession that induce at every moment to believe that it is the first in suffering thus. The pride of this uniqueness incites it to be fallen in love of its own evil and to make it hesitate. In a sufferings world, every one of them is solipsist regarding the others. Misfortune originality is due to the verbal quality that isolates it the set of the words and sensations...

Qualifyings change: that change is called progress of the spirit. All suppressed: what would remain of civilization? The difference between intelligence and stupidity resides in the managing of the adjective, whose not diversified use constitutes banality. Even God does not live more than by the adjectives that are added to him; this is the raison d'être of theology. Thus, the man, always qualifying differently his unhappiness monotony, is not justified before the spirit more than by the passionate search of the new adjective.

(And however, that search is lamentable. The misery of the expression, that it is the misery of the spirit, is manifested in words' poverty, in their depletion and degradation: attributes thanks to those which we determine things and sensations finally lie before us as verbal carrions. And we direct looks full with nostalgia to the time in which they detached loosened more than a smell of closed. Any Alexandrism finally originates of the need of airing the words, of lending to their wilting an alert refinement supplement; but it finishes in a depletion where the spirit and the verb are confused and decomposed. (Ideally hindmost stage of a literature and a civilization: let us imagine a Valéry with the Nero souls ...)

Mientras nuestros sentidos frescos y nuestro corazón ingenuo se reencuentran y deleitan en el universo de las calificaciones, prosperan el azar del adjetivo, el cual, una vez disecado, se revela impropio y deficiente. Decimos del espacio, el tiempo y el sufrimiento que son infinitos: pero infinito no tiene más alcance que: hermoso, sublime, armonioso, feo...¿Quiere uno restringirse a ver el fondo de las palabras? No se ve nada, pues éste, separado del alma expansiva y fértil, es vacío y nulo. El poder de la inteligencia se ejercita en proyectar sobre él un lustre, en pulirlo y hacerlo deslumbrante; este poder, erigido en sistema, se llama cultura, fuego de artificio sobre trasfondo de nada.)

While our fresh senses and our naive heart meet again and delight in the universe of qualifications, adjective's fate prospers, which, once dissected, is revealed inappropriate and lacking. We said that space, time and suffering are infinite: but infinite has no more scope than: beautiful, sublime, harmonious, ugly...?? Does one be restricted to see the words bottom? Nothing is seen, since this, away from the expansive and fertile soul, it is empty and void. Intelligence's power is exercised projecting on it a gloss, polishing it and making glare it; this power, system-erected, is called culture, artifice fire on a nothingness background.)

Taken from: "Breviario de podredumbre", E. M. Cioran, Taurus Ediciones, 1991, pg. 36.


Most recent revision: April 27, 2002.