on April 8, 2005
Well written, comprehensive and compelling reading.
It's a little overly technical in places (although this may suit some readers). It also seems to focus a little to much on Kierkegaard's early works- the chapters on his later works e.g. Practice in Christianity, Sickness... and that part of his life feel somewhat more compressed than earlier ones (perhaps it's actually a case of the earlier chapters being too long?)
If you are new to Kierkegaard I would suggest reading Penguin's edition of Kierkegaard's Paper and Journals (edited by Alistair Hannay) first, and then this biography.
on October 1, 2012
The first chapter is horrendous and it will be very difficult for the uninitiated to get a sense of what is going on.
I understand starting with the crux of the life or what people call a definite "before and after" point, but the author totally botches it.
I'm lucky I got to the second chapter because the author finds a voice that is very learned, amused, and restrained in its telling of a representative man.
Would have given Five stars if the first chapter wasn't so terrible.
on October 25, 2013
The author of this book is indisputably qualified to be writing about his subject. However, he seems not to have spent long enough on this particular book, nor to have benefited from a good editor.
The book is characterized throughout by a slightly flippant style, e.g. (as was pointed out in the official reviews above) saying that Kierkegaard thought his father had "messed up his life". This style is certainly no problem, and is in fact suitable to Kierkegaard himself. But the problem arises when subtle philosophical points are treated in such a laconic fashion that it becomes frustratingly difficult to understand what Hannay is saying - and this constitutes a definitive obstacle to understanding what Kierkegaard is saying - which ought, after all, to be the purpose of a biography.
In contrast a biography like Rüdiger Safranski's book on Martin Heidegger reads like a thorough digest of Heidegger's ideas and can appeal to the beginner as a way into the world of that thinker.
With Hannay, on the other hand, you would already have to know a lot about Kierkegaard to find value in his book. Many of the discussions are simply handwaving to what one would have to assume is an academic context of conferences and discussions where Hannay really finds his intended audience.
What Hannay does bring to the table is a very thorough knowledge of the Danish context of Kierkegaard's writing. He knows the landscape of minor authors and religious and political figures against which Kierkegaard sketched out his brilliant revolution of the mind. But that doesn't make it a 4-star book.
And as may be imagined, both of the last two points interfere with the book's value as a biography. In fact, it is not so much biography as intellectual history, and anyone hoping for a psychologically profound treatment of Kierkegaard's relation to his father, or to his fiancée Regine Olsen, will be disappointed. The book is much more about ideas than about people.
on May 14, 2010
Alastair Hannay may help us develop some of the ways of understanding the philosophy of religion as purported by
Kierkegaard. The accomplishments are many in this definitive
biography. Only an author who has combined his erudite study
of the subject with probing decisive language skills is
capable of producing such a book.
Soren Kierkegaard's concepts are very timeless!
At times, it is necessary to look to a well qualified interpreter,
to help us on our way to realize the meaning of quite a number
of edifying discourses.
Do explore where ethical issues arise!
St. Andrews, Scotland
on September 17, 2010
Kierkegaard, A Biography
(Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001) 496 pages
(ISBN: 0-512-56077-2; hardcover)
(Library of Congress call number: B4376.H36 2001)
Alastair Hannay is a long-time scholar
and translator of Kierkegaard's works.
He puts his deep understanding of SK
into this comprehensive story of SK's life.
References is made to the writing and publishing of each book,
but Hannay do not concentrate on the content of SK's thought
as much as on the events of his life and relationships.
I recommend reading this biography alongside
Søren Kierkegaard: Papers and Journals: A Selection,
which is organized chronologically
---selected and translated by Alastair Hannay.
James Leonard Park, existential philosopher