Mon 25 Aug, 2008 04:45 am
Being a Kierkegaard fanboy myself, I jumped on this book as soon it came out of the presses in 2005. I very rarely read novels, I must admit; I prefer philosophical essays. I had a hard (boring) time going through The Brothers Karamazov and War and Peace. But Kierkegaard's novels are a few of the solitary exceptions; I went through In Vino Veritas and The Seducer's Diary like no tomorrow.
Ms. Caroline Coleman O'Neill's book is a fictionalized version of one of the most pivotal moments in ol' SK's life, Regine Olsen and his relationship with her. O'Neill takes the known journal entries and philosophy books from Kierkegaard and Olsen, accounts of their relationship from others, and added a few romantic tidbits in herself. Actual quotes or thoughts from either Kierkegaard or Olsen are italicized in the novel.
The novel starts off the day Kierkegaard met Olsen at the Rordams. SK's journals note that he met Olsen there, but went into little detail from there. O'Neill improvs from there; here's an shortened example of her dialogue that SK might wittly say:
SK: "I love pastries, I am drawn to them, as if by magnetic force."
Bolette, the Host: "Which do you want?"
Bolette: "I thought you said you loved pastries, Mr. Kierkegaard."
SK: "Yes, and that is precisely why I must refuse them," taking the fork and jabbing it into the air.
Bolette: "Surely, one won't hurt."
SK: "Miss Rordam, it is just such small evil choices, made over the course of a lifetime, that doom one to perdition. You wouldn't want to be responsible for sending me to my doom?"
Bolette: "I will thank you for not calling my food evil!"
Yes, dark humour of course, but it already foreshadows the tragic end to one Mr. Kierkegaard; in the most innocuous way for a person not familiar with SK's life story.
Most chapters start with two quotes that summarizes the chapter, one from Kierkegaard and one from Regine. Both relate to how they see each other and themselves, for example, the chapter on their flirting has the two quotes:
"Who knows, perhaps it was her pride that made her prefer me." - SK
"Kierkegaard understood me." - Regine Olsen
One of the chapters on their dating:
"." - Regine Olsen
"I cannot quite understand the purely erotic impact she made on me." -SK
They provide the structure and interplay between Regine and SK's dialogue, as well as O'Neill's improvised dialogue, that constituted the cat-and-mouse relationship they had.
The novel ends after Kierkegaard's death with the last few chapters dealing with Regine and her husband Fritz Schlegel on SK's lasting impression on both their lives, which I thought was aptly handled by O'Neill, making sure Regine and Schlegel recognize SK, but never let him dominate them.
Perhaps it's due to my bias, but I wholly recommend this historical-romance novel. I read the entire 300 page book in two days. It was just that engrossing for me, as I had read the fragmented accounts in SK's journals already, so knew what to expect; but Ms. O'Neill's elaboration of the missing gaps are intriguing and thoughtful, and make it a complete, entertaining, albeit fictionalized, account of the two star-crossed lovers.
the book sounds fascinating. I have only read bits and pieces of information relating to his relationship with Regine Olson. Even if it is fiction, it must be very interesting and very well informed.
Yes it's very well informed; and untypical for a novel, she has a references page discussing her sources (almost all 26 Princeton Kierkegaard editions and essays and books from the top Kierkegaard scholars).