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Waking KSRK

I was counting on Quintilian to run the Korrektiv Summer Reading Klub ball into the endzone during lent, but instead he got off on a lenten tangent of his own; and throughout the easter season the out-of-season reading club slumbered lifelessly. Klub members turned away in droves to find bookish solace in other literary communities or, more likely, in drink.

Well, now I’ve picked up Kierkegaard’s Stages again and embarked, finally, on the final section: Frater Taciturnus’s “Epistle to the Reader,” which serves as an epilogue to “Guilty?/Not Guilty?” aka Quidam’s Diary — which in turn is the third and largest section of this tripartite book, formerly used as a doorstop and a thing to drop on spiders.

At the outset of his epistle, Frater T. makes the following prognostication, which should be of not a little interest to reading club book selection committees considering Stages as their “what if everyone read” book:

I make public the peerless prediction that of the few readers of the book two-thirds will fall away before they are half way through, which may also be expressed in this wise, that they will stop there and throw away the book for boredom.

Following that, it would seem the frater tries his best to drive away the remaining third. The epistle is tough going, but far from boring. Interestingly, the frater owns up to being the author of the diary: “The girl I have represented quite generically (as a special characteristic I have only let her lack religious presuppositions), and this I have done intentionally, in order that she might the better illuminate him and teach him to exert himself” (363). This is a curious move within the maze of authorship SK develops for his pseudonymous works. It’s as if he wants to distance the reader from the notion that the diary is a literal account of a real engaged couple. That the move seems in part an attempt at self-protection becomes a clearer a few paragraphs later: “Fortunately my hero does not exist outside of my thought-experiment. He cannot be exposed to ridicule in real life.” (367)

From there, the frater considers the question of unhappy love and how the category has dropped out of circulation in modern times, being replaced with the category of “tolerably happy love.” The general accusation is that we have lost our passion. And in that context, here is something to consider in light of the current iPod craze:

To take away passion from the lines of a play, and to make up for that by letting the orchestra scrape a little, is a prostitution of poetry and is comic, just as though in real life a lover, instead of having pathos in his breast, were at the decisive moment to have a music box in his pocket. (369)

Comments

  1. Quin Finnegan says

    Concercing the prognostication and the public and peerless prediction, I guess the verdict is “Guilty”. Probably unredeemable, too, but I’ll soldier on and see if I can add anything here.

    Questions:

    Does the frater’s ‘owning up’ about he himself being the author necessarily lead to the conclusion that the whole thing is a fiction? It certainly seems obvious now that the ‘fictionalization’ is rather thin. Even with his comments about the ‘thought experiment’, the mere instance of such improbable names as ‘Quidam’ and ‘Frater Taciturnus’ makes it look like a cover. To me, anyway. I recall reading somewhere that neither Regina nor anybody else guessed the identity of the author. That’s pretty incredible. Or maybe they didn’t make it two-thirds of the way through.

    Is it also possible that, being a ‘frater’, Taciturnus could also be the young man looking for a sideways path to the monastery at the beginning of the diary? That seems to me an almost unavoidable conclusion. I don’t have it in front of me, so maybe this is pretty obvious. I guess that’s the incentive to go back and read more.

    How close is Quidam’s diary to the one Kierkegaard kept? And does the portrait of the girl resemble Regina? How closely? Especially concering those ‘religious scruples’.

    It’s also somewhat interesting that SK is here concerned with being exposed to ridicule. No to long afterwards he would deliberately set himself up for “The Corsair Affair”.

    Nice observation about the music box.

    Thanks for picking up the ball.

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