"The day will come when not only my writings, but precisely my life--the intriguing secret of all the machinery--will be studied and studied." Søren Kierkegaard's remarkable combination of genius and peculiarity made this a fair if arrogant prediction. But Kierkegaard's life has been notoriously hard to study, so complex was the web of fact and fiction in his work. Joakim Garff's biography of Kierkegaard is thus a landmark achievement. A seamless blend of history, philosophy, and psychological insight, all conveyed with novelistic verve, this is the most comprehensive and penetrating account yet written of the life and works of the enigmatic Dane who changed the course of intellectual history.
Garff portrays Kierkegaard not as the all-controlling impresario behind some of the most important works of modern philosophy and religious thought--books credited with founding existentialism and prefiguring postmodernism--but rather as a man whose writings came to control him. Kierkegaard saw himself as a vessel for his writings, a tool in the hand of God, and eventually as a martyr singled out to call for the end of "Christendom." Garff explores the events and relationships that formed Kierkegaard, including his guilt-ridden relationship with his father, his rivalry with his brother, and his famously tortured relationship with his fiancée Regine Olsen. He recreates the squalor and splendor of Golden Age Copenhagen and the intellectual milieu in which Kierkegaard found himself increasingly embattled and mercilessly caricatured.
Acclaimed as a major cultural event on its publication in Denmark in 2000, this book, here presented in an exceptionally crisp and elegant translation, will be the definitive account of Kierkegaard's life for years to come.
"Monumental. . . . Garff's informal voice enlists us in the village of gossip of Kierkegaard's time. . . . [H]is tone helps create a sense of excitement, of caring, of importance, of--locally and cosmically--scandal."--John Updike, The New Yorker
"For any reader of Kierkegaard, this book will have a theatrical effect. It is as though one has been listening to a long soliloquy: suddenly the curtain goes up and there is golden-age Denmark. The 'soliloquy' is now embedded in a vibrant and multi-faceted conversation. The book is written with confidence and verve; it has been beautifully translated into English by Bruce H. Kirmmse. If you are capable of being absorbed by the life of one who did little but think and suffer privately, this is an 816-page page-turner."--Jonathan Lear, Times Literary Supplement
"A superb portrait of the philosopher that offers drama, psychological insight and social history as well as a guide to his profound, if perplexing, ideas. . . . An assiduous researcher, Mr. Garff has been studying his subject for decades. Happily, he seems to possess something of Kierkegaard's divine ability to express deep insights into human nature with a subtle and aristocratic touch. His masterly biography is a page-turning story and a guide wire into the mind of a philosopher whose ideas, properly understood, will never lose their force or fall out of fashion."--Gordon Marino, The Wall Street Journal
"Although some will accuse Garff of revealing salacious details of the philosopher's life--as in the chapters on Kierkegaard's relationship with his fiancee Regine Olsen--this monumental and magisterial biography offers fresh glimpses into the sometimes-tortured life and work of this true philosophical genius."--Publishers Weekly
Table of Contents
Other Princeton books by or about Søren Kierkegaard: