Aurel and Emil Cioran Collection at ASTRA Library Sibiu
The collection portrays the life and work of two Romanian intellectuals separated by the Iron Curtain, the brothers Aurel and Emil Cioran. While Aurel Cioran experienced imprisonment and then lived in Sibiu, Romania, his brother lived in Paris from 1941, where he became an internationally known French essayist. The collection comprises original manuscripts, correspondence, books, photos, and personal documents from the period 1911–1996.
Sibiu Strada George Barițiu 5, Romania 550178
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Name of collection
- Aurel & Emil Cioran Collection
Provenance and cultural activities
The collection portrays the life and work of the two brothers Aurel and Emil Cioran, but also their cultural milieu, composed of intellectuals such as Constantin Noica, Mircea Eliade, Mircea Vulcănescu, and Petre Ţuţea, who were repressed, marginalised or censored by the communist regime due to their former allegiance to the Legion of the Archangel Michael. Characterised by the historian Stanley Payne as the “Romanian variant of fascism” and “the most unique of the entire genus, except for the German Nazis” (Payne 1995, 136), the Legion attracted the support of many young Romanian intellectuals radicalised by “intellectual unemployment” and rampant corruption (Sdrobiş 2015, 175–181, 189–193).
The structure of the collection reflects the tumultuous life of the Cioran brothers. A part of the collection was gathered by the Cioran family in the period 1911–1948, before the arrest of Aurel Cioran by the Securitate. This part comprises manuscripts, correspondence of Emil and Aurel Cioran with Romanian intellectuals, personal documents concerning the studies and scholarships of Emil Cioran, and the library of the Cioran family containing foreign and Romanian books forbidden under communism. These items are also a valuable source of information for the intellectual history of Romania during the 1930s and 1940s. They illustrate the intellectual sources of Emil Cioran’s work and the complicated entanglements between culture and politics in interwar Romania.
The second part of the collection, gathered after 1948, mirrors the cultural limitations imposed by the communist regime. The correspondence from the later communist period between Aurel Cioran and his brother Emil, who did not return to Romania after Second Word War, gives insights into the everyday lives of two intellectuals separated by the Iron Curtain. This correspondence is also a valuable source for how the writings of a Romanian intellectual living in the West were perceived in his native country. It is worth mentioning that this correspondence was an act of cultural opposition, taking into account the restrictions imposed by the communist regime in the 1950s. Maintaining correspondence with an intellectual in Western exile involved significant risks for those living in communist Romania during the late 1940s and 1950s. These risks are illustrated by the political trial of the so-called Noica–Pillat group of intellectuals. In this political trial, which took place in Romania in February 1960 and involved the Romanian philosopher Constantin Noica, a friend of the two Cioran brothers, one of the main items of evidence used to prove the former’s political guilt was a letter sent by Noica to Emil Cioran in 1957 (Tănase 2009a, 370–379).
The collection was gathered by the parents of the two brothers and by Aurel Cioran in the period 1911–1996. Preserving documents from the interwar period was a risky undertaking under communism, given that many letters of the collection had a problematic ideological content when seen through the eyes of the communist regime. In 1996, Aurel Cioran made a will in which he mentioned that the Aurel & Emil Cioran Collection would be donated after his death to the ASTRA Sibiu County Library, and this duly took place in 1997. The items of the collection have a very composite character due to the fact that they reflect the intellectual interests of both Emil and Aurel Cioran. While the manuscripts and letters written by Emil Cioran represent a source of documentation for the Romanian period of his activity, and for his contacts with Romanian intellectuals after his decision to remain in France, those written by Aurel Cioran speak about the interests and cultural milieu of a Romanian intellectual who was repressed and marginalised by the communist regime due to his former support for the Legion. His case is symptomatic for how some Romanian intellectuals formed in the interwar period and trapped by the Legionary ideology failed to critically re-examine their allegiance to this far-right movement.
Description of content
The Aurel and Emil Cioran Collection contains 602 volumes, more than 600 letters, manuscripts, personal documents and photos. The books of the Aurel and Emil Cioran Collection cover a broad variety of topics including philosophy, literature, history, theology, and social sciences. Many of these books, such as those published abroad by Emil Cioran, were not accessible in public libraries in communist Romania. The books in Aurel Cioran’s personal library circulated clandestinely among his friends and represented an alternative source of information for this intellectual network. The correspondence and the photos are a valuable source of documentation for studying the intellectual milieu in which Emil Cioran was formed. In this respect the collection speaks not only about how the books that Emil Cioran published in France were perceived in communist Romania, but also about the intellectual trajectories of Emil Cioran’s friends who remained in Romania, such as Constantin Noica and Petre Ţuţea. The collection contains also original manuscripts of a few of Emil Cioran’s essays that are considered to be of secondary importance.
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 500-999
- photos: 0-9
- publications (books, newspapers, articles, press clippings): 500-999
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Important events in the history of the collection
- completely open to the public
Cioran, Aurel. 2012. Aurel Cioran: fratele fiului risipitor (Aurel Cioran: The brother of the prodigal son). Edited by Anca Sârghie and Marin Diaconu. Cluj-Napoca: Eikon.
Cioran, Emil. 1995. Scrisori către cei de-acasă (Letters to those at home). Edited by Dan C. Mihăilescu. Bucharest: Humanitas.
Author(s) of this page
- Pintilescu, Corneliu
ASTRA Sibiu County Library. 2017. “Fondul documentar EMIL și AUREL CIORAN” (The Emil and Aurel Cioran Documentary Fonds). Accessed February 18, 2017. http://bjastrasibiu.ro/colectii/fonduri-documentare/
Laignel-Lavanstine, Alexandra. 2004. Cioran, Eliade, Ionesco: Uitarea fascismului. Trei intelectuali români în vâltoarea secolului (Cioran , Eliade, Ionescu: Forgetting fascism. Three Romanianintellectuals in the turmoil of the century).Bucharest: Editura EST–Samuel Tastet Éditeur.
Payne, Stanley G. 1995. A History of Fascism, 1914–1945. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Sdrobiş, Dragoş. 2015. Limitele meritocraţiei într-o societate agrară. Șomaj intelectual şi radicalizare politică a tineretului în România interbelică (The limits of meritocracy in an agrarian society: Intellectual unemployment and political radicalisation in interwar Romania). Iaşi: Polirom.
Tănase, Stelian. 2009a. Anatomia mistificării: 1944–1989 (The anatomy of mystification: 1944–1989). Bucharest: Humanitas.
Tănase, Stelian. 2009b. “Emil Cioran supravegheat de Securitatea română”(Emil Cioran under the surveillance of the Romanian Securitate). Sfera Politicii 17, 141. Accessed February 21, 2017. http://www.sferapoliticii.ro/sfera/141/art12-tanase.html
Andriescu, Bogdan , interview by Pintilescu, Corneliu, December 20, 2016. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection