I Almost Touched the Supreme

I was walking late one night along a tree-lined path; a chestnut fell at my feet. The noise it made as it burst, the resonance it provoked in me, and an upheaval out of all proportion to this insignificant event thrust me into miracle, into the rapture of the definitive, as if there were no more questions–only answers. I was drunk on a thousand unexpected discoveries, none of which I could make use of…

This is how I nearly reached the Supreme. But instead I went on with my walk.

– Cioran

From the original French:

Comme je me promenais à une heure tardive dans cette allée bordée d’arbres, une châtaigne tomba à mes pieds. Le bruit qu’elle fit en éclatant, l’écho qu’il suscita en moi, et un saisissement hors de proportion avec cet incident infime, me plongèrent dans le miracle, dans l’ébriété du définitif, comme s’il n’y avait plus de questions, rien que des réponses. J’étais ivre de mille évidences inattendues, dont je ne savais que faire…

C’est ainsi que je faillis toucher au suprême. Mais je crus préférable de continuer ma promenade.

I was curious about the subtleties of the translation1, so I requested ChatGPT (4o) translate it:

As I was walking late at night in this tree-lined alley, a chestnut fell at my feet. The noise it made as it burst, the echo it stirred within me, and a shock disproportionate to this trivial incident plunged me into a miracle, into the intoxication of the definitive, as if there were no more questions, only answers. I was drunk with a thousand unexpected certainties, of which I didn’t know what to do…

Thus, I almost touched the supreme. But I thought it better to continue my walk.

I like the LLM’s translation a bit bitter and I don’t know how I feel about that.

But I still love the quote.

We’re all so desperate for answers.

See also: Emil Cioran.

  1. “Initially written in French, the 1976 English translation by Richard Howard received the PEN Translation Prize.” according to Wikipedia

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