It's when I finished studying it, at the point where I stopped believing in philosophy, that I began to read Nietzsche. Well, I realised that he wasn't a philosopher, but was more: a temperament. So, I read him, but never systematically, now and then. But I really don't read him anymore. I consider his letters his most authentic work, because in them he's truthful, while in his other work he's prisoner to his vision. In his letters one sees that he's just a poor fellow, that he's ill, exactly the opposite of everything he claimed. [...] His work is an unspeakable megalomania. When one reads the letters he wrote at the same time, one sees that he's lamentable, it's very touching, like a character out of Chekhov.
It was, if you like, the disappointment of philosophy that made me turn to literature. To tell the truth, it's from that point on that I realised that Dostoevsky was much more important that a great philosopher, And that great poetry was something extraordinary.
[Severe insomnia] was the profound cause of my break with philosophy. I realised that in moments of great despair philosophy is no help at all, and offers absolutely no answers. So I turned to poetry and literature, where I found no answers either, but states of mind analogous to my own. I can say that my sleepless nights brought about the break with my idolatry of philosophy.
Normally, someone who goes to bed and sleeps all night begins the next day almost a new life. It's not simply another day, it's another life. And so he can undertake things, can manifest himself, he has a present, a future, and so on. But for someone who doesn't sleep, the time from going to bed at night to rising in the morning is all continuous, with no interruption, no suppression of consciousness. So, instead of starting a new life at eight in the morning, you're still as you were at eight the evening before. The nightmare contintues uninterrupted and, in the morning, start what, since there's no difference since the night before? That new life doesn't exist. The whole day is a trial, it's the continuation of the trial.
In my opinion, almost all suicides, about ninety per cent, say, are due to insomnia. I can't prove that, but I'm convinced.
I quarreled with everyone. I couldn't put up with anything. And I found everyone idiotic. Nobody understood what I understood. It was the feeling of not belonging. Then too, this feeling that everything is a comedy and makes no sense. The future was meaningless for me, the present as well. And so, philosophically, because one is always a philosopher, it's a sort of exasperation, an intensification, of the state of being conscious. Not self-conscious, conscious. The state of consciousness is the great misfortune, and in my case, the permanent misfortune. Normally, it's the contrary, it's consciousness which is man's advantage. Me, I arrived at the conclusion that no, the fact of being conscious, of not being oblivious, is the great catastrophe.
The drama of insomnia is that time doesn't pass. You're lying down in the middle of the night and you are no longer in time. You're not in eternity either. Time passes so slowly that it becomes agonising. All of us, being alive, are drawn along by time because we are in time. When you lie awake like that, you are outside of time. So, time passes outside of you, you can't catch up with it.
[...] consciousness of time proves that you are outside of time, that you've been ejected. One could really call it a philosophical or metaphysical experience.
Everything I've written, I wrote to escape a sense of oppression, of suffocation. It wasn't from inspiration, as they say. It was a sort of getting free, to be able to breathe.
[...] a writer needn't know things in depth. If he speaks of something, he shouldn't know everything about it, only the things that go with his temperament. He should not be objective. One can discuss a subject in depth, but in a certain direction, not trying to cover the whole thing. For a writer the university is death.
Q. Do you have particular writing habits or conditions when you can work? A. I've never been able to write in a normal state. [...] I always had to be either depressed or angry, furious or disgusted, but never in a normal state. And I write preferably in a state of semidepression. There has to be something that's not right.
Suicide gives me the idea that I can leave this world when I want to, and that makes life bearable, instead of destroying it.
I considered life as a mere postponing of suicide. I had thought I wasn't going to live past the age of thirty. But it wasn't from cowardice that I was always postponing my suicide. I exploited this idea, I was its parasite. At the same time, this appetite for existing was also very strong in me.
... I read also in order not to think, to escape, to not be me.
Q. You've often expressed in your books your interest in biographies. A. Above all I like to see how people end. When you read about someone's life, you see what illusions he started out with, and it's very interesting to see how they fail him.
E.M. Cioran, interviewed