Was Kierkegaard “cursed”?

Søren Kierkegaard Read more from
Chapter Continental Philosophy

Kierkegaard had a self-fulfilling way of being cursed. There was not only the matter of Regine Olson—after he broke off his engagement, he spent the rest of his life tormented by her loss. There was also the “Corsair Affair” of 1845 to 1846, when, after an unfavorable review, he wrote the following in “Dialectical Result of a Literary Police Action”:

With a paper like The Corsair, which hitherto has been read by many and all kinds of people and essentially has enjoyed the recognition of being ignored, despised, and never answered, the only thing to be done in writing in order to express the literary, moral order of things—reflected in the inversion that this paper with meager competence and extreme effort has sought to bring about—was for someone immortalized and praised in this paper to make application to be abused by the same paper…. May I ask to be abused—the personal injury of being immortalized by The Corsair is just too much.

And abused he was, in a campaign so bitingly satiric and mocking of all his personal weaknesses and defects—he was short and frail, and had been born with a hump on his back—that he described himself as apprehensive of everyone with whom he came into contact, “even the butcher boy.” This was not self-indulgent paranoia because Kierkegaard experienced the modern phenomenon of a celebrity degraded by the gutter press everywhere he walked in Copenhagen. It was a catastrophe for him because walking and talking to people in all stations of life had been his principal diversion.


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