Page:Selections from the writings of Kierkegaard.djvu/13
Creditable as have been the contributions of Scandinavia to the cultural life of the race in well-nigh all fields of human endeavor, it has produced but one thinker of the first magnitude, the Dane, Sören Å. Kierkegaard. The fact that he is virtually unknown to us is ascribable, on the one hand to the inaccessibility of his works, both as to language and form; on the other, to the regrettable insularity of English thought.
It is the purpose of this book to remedy the defect in a measure, and by a selection from his most representative works to provide a stimulus for a more detailed study of his writings; for the present times, ruled by material considerations, wholly led by socializing, and misled by national, ideals are precisely the most opportune to introduce the bitter but wholesome antidote of individual responsibility, which is his message. In particular, students of Northern literature cannot afford to know no more than the name of one who exerted a potent and energizing influence on an important epoch of Scandinavian thought. To mention only one instance, the greatest ethical poem of our age, “Brand”—notwithstanding Ibsen's curt statement that he “had read little of Kierkegaard and understood less”—undeniably owes its fundamental thought to him, whether directly or indirectly.
Of very few authors can it be said with the same literalness as of Kierkegaard that their life is their works: as if to furnish living proof of his untiring insistance on inwardness, his life, like that of so many other spiritual educators of the race, is notably poor in incidents; but his life of inward experiences is all the richer—witness the “literature within a literature” that came to be within a few years and that gave to Danish letters a score of immortal works.
- Pronounced Kerkegor.