Søren Kierkegaard spent much of the summer of 1855 staring out of the windows of his cramped second-floor apartment in the centre of old Copenhagen, across the road from the Church of Our Lady. He knew the building well, but the prospect did not please him. As a student, hapless and heavily in debt, he used to take communion there with his ancient and immovably melancholy father; but that was long ago, and he had been an erratic and inconsistent churchgoer since that time. He could, however, look back on a successful career as a writer, with a vast output of squibs and reviews, many-layered fables and novellas, dozens of quirky sermons, and an imposing series of nicely deranged treatises in praise of paradox, indirectness and irregularity. He had published some thirty books in all, earning considerable sums of money to supplement his very comfortable inheritance. But still he was dissatisfied. His earnings had never been enough to cover the expenses of his life as a fashionable bachelor, and his writings had not won him the readers he craved. 'I am regarded as a kind of Englishman, a half-mad eccentric,' he wrote. 'My work as an author . . . is regarded as a sort of hobby, like fishing or that sort of thing.'
LRB 4 August 2005 | PDF Download