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Papers and Journals: A Selection
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Along with an older and somewhat smaller one-volume edition by Alexander Dru (worth seeking out, but very difficult to find), this provides readers of Kierkegaard's works a usable collection of highlights from his massive and exceedingly important JOURNALS AND PAPERS. Although this volume runs to over 700 pages, it does not represent a tenth of the complete edition in Danish.
There are many reasons for someone to read in Kierkegaard's journals. He used his journals for dry runs for many ideas that later cropped up in his various books and discourses. He often presents these ideas in a more straightforward manner than he would in his books. But he also often writes things that he did not intend to be seen by the public in his lifetime. Make no mistake about it: Kierkegaard definitely wrote these journals with the assumption that they would later be read by others in published form. But the knowledge that this would only come after his death freed him from any form of constraint, not that even here he is terribly forthcoming.
Reading the journals is also essential because it is the only way to get a truly balanced picture of his literary career and life. For instance, the caricature of Kierkegaard is of a soul who unhappily engaged in a Quixotic battle with the Danish Lutheran church in the final years of his life. The image is of an unhappy, isolated, tormented soul who never finds his rest. In fact, from the journals we find a person who has achieved a great deal of personal peace and a quiet contentment. This cannot be drawn from the books he published in his lifetime, but only from the journals. For all these reasons, anyone interested in Kierkegaard will profit enormously from these pages.
My lone complaint is that Alastair Hannay is not the most gifted prose stylist in the world. I have read just about all his words in English (all dealing with Kierkegaard or translations of Kierkegaard), and while I have no doubt about his accuracy as a translator, I have no confidence in his literary abilities. As a result, the volume--like the other volumes he has translated for Penguin--is highly serviceable, but not something that will thrill and inspire.
I should mention that Amazon shows a Princeton University Press edition of the JOURNALS scheduled to appear in the fall of 2004. I do not know very much about this edition. I am assuming that it is a single volume edition, but I have no idea how extensive of an edition this will be. Princeton's publications of Kierkegaard's works tend to be somewhat schizophrenic. While their edition of Kierkegaard's works are likely to be the standard edition for a very long time to come, they also produce some odd collections that seem to be targeted at a more popular audience. Perhaps their edition will be scholarly (my hope). Either way, this excellent volume by Penguin will either serve if the Princeton is unhelpful, or a useful alternative if it is successful.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
The 'Journals' of Kierkegaard are not simply the testing - ground for many of his ideas and projects, they are the life- record which indicates his mood and feeling. He began them in 1833 when he was twenty, and wrote them to the end of his life. They served in a way as his most important and trusted friend. In them he contemplated important life- decisions. They are an important supplement to his most important works, and contain many of his most original thoughts and aphorisms.

To give a real feeling of the Journals I will quote one of the most famous passages at some length. It was written in 1843.

" . What I really need is to be clear about what I am to do, not what I must know, except in the way knowledge must precede all action. It is a question of understanding my destiny, of seeing what the Deity really wants me to do; the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die. And what use here would it be if I were to discover a so-called objective truth, or if I worked my way through the philosophers' systems and were able to call them all to account on request, point out inconsistencies in every single circle? And what use here would it be to be able to work out a theory of the state, and put all the pieces from so many places into one whole, construct a world which, again, I myself did not inhabit but merely held up for others to see? What use would it be to be able to propound the meaning of Christianity, to explain many separate facts, if it had no deeper meaning for myself and for my life? "

In this passage Kierkegaard contemplates and fleshes out his own life- mission. Note how rich the passage is in the figurative 'as if 'language which so enriched his writing. Note too how the writing despite its somewhat awkward mode of motion makes definite progress towards a wise and turning- point life decision."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book is a must read in order to understand the very lifeblood of Kierkegaard's philosophy and existence!! Its powerful, very revealing of the character himself in ways that his published books don't portray as clearly. He is very open and definite in his philosophy here and completely reveals his heart and faith. Please get this book even though it may be a long read. It is so worth it. I love how deep Kierkegaard goes in his thinking and how real he is with himself and all of us. He is no thinker to tickle your ears but a master at pricking the very spirit and heart of a person and goes so deep and yet reveals the bigger picture in ways that almost no person has done before or after him. This is a great book to read to understand more fully who the man is and what he believes, which makes all his other works more lively, clear and captivating!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
As of of the most influential of Western philosophers, this anthology of selected papers by Kierkegaard is a nice way to wade through the sea of his writing without drowning. One certainly gets a good feel for his zeitgeist, including his views on politics, religion and life in general. Only for the scholarly.
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on December 22, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
In his short life Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1814-1855) wrote over seven thousand pages of papers and journal entries, enough writing to fill an entire bookshelf. This Penguin collection organizes Kierkegaard's journals into eight major phases of the philosopher's life, from Kierkegaard's early 20s to the last years of his life before he collapsed on the street at age 43. There is great insight and wisdom here. There is also wry humor and penetrating observations on 19th century European society and the ever-present existential challenges of human experience . To give a small taste of what a reader will find in the 600+ pages of this book, below are several of Kierkegaard's pithy entries along with my very brief comments:

From the chapter: 1834-1836: THE FIRST JOURNAL ENTRIES
"People understand me so little that they fail even to understand my complaints that they do not understand me." ---------- Do you think you understand Kierkegaard? What do you think the Danish philosopher would think of your understanding?

"Damn and hell, I can abstract from everything but not from myself. I can't even forget myself when I sleep." ---------- With reflections (and curses) like this, it is no surprise Kierkegaard is considered the father of existentialism!

From the chapter: 1848-1849: THE WIDENING OF THE RIFF
"No wonder I am thought mad. All that supports my endeavor is what might recommend it in eternity but secularly gives it a bad name and deprives me of respect. I earn nothing from it, it is not my livelihood or my job. And I am alone in a little country - where nevertheless a thousand priests are paid into thinking they are Christians." ---------- A pointed observation about established religion if there ever was one. And quite a statement of how the general public views a philosopher and original thinker.

From the last 2 chapters:
THE TRUTH IS NAKED
"To go swimming one takes off one's clothes; to pursue the truth one must take one's time in a much more inward sense, divesting oneself of a much more inward attire of thoughts, ideas, selfishness and the like, before one is naked enough." --------- What do we in the 21st century have to unlearn to be better prepared to see the naked truth? Perhaps our first step would be to turn off our plasma screens and unplug our devices pumping in news or entertainment or music.

ABOUT MYSELF
"Slight, thin and delicate, denied practically all the physical conditions which, compared with others, could qualify me, too, as a whole human being; melancholy, sick in my mind, profoundly and inwardly a failure in many ways, I was given one thing: an eminently astute mind, presumably to keep me from being completely defenseless." ---------- Starting from his earliest year in the schoolyard, Kierkegaard had to do battle shackled with his frail, prematurely old body and a childhood poisoned by his melancholic father. But his mind was so unbelievably sharp. Thus, young Søren was given the nickname 'The Fork'. Fortunately for lovers of literary philosophy, SK was also given a natural gift to write!

PERSECUTION
"In our times persecution just doesn't exit - because Christendom has been made so lacking in character that really there is nothing to persecute." ---------- I recall a Kierkegaard quote where he observed the prime predictable fact of modern-day society is the abysmal lack of character. I have taken this quote as a challenge at every phase of my own life.

SOCRATES - THE OTHER
"Socrates always talked exclusively of food and drink - but really he was talking and thinking all the time of the infinite. The others are always talking, and in the loudest voices, about the infinite, but really they are talking and thinking all the time about food and drink." ---------- Two rhetorical questions: What is the prime topic of your conversation? What is the truth for which you are willing to live and die?

INTROVERSION
"We are warned against introversion; you might just as well warn against Christianity." ---------- You don't have to be a follower of the Christian faith to see how we all must retain the integrity of our inner life.

I do not read these journal entries the way I read a novel, from beginning to end; rather, I read and reread one entry at a time. There is enough literary philosophy contained in this book to keep me going until I'm at least a 100 years old.
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on April 16, 2015
Format: Paperback
My favourite book of all time. The best of Kierkegaard, the most quotable, an excellent view of his philosophy as it grows and changes throughout his life. An intimate look. If you want to fall in love with philosophy, begin here.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2008
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
If you know Kierkegaard, then you know you must buy this. You feel like you are in the same room as this most thoughtful man. A wonderful, wonderful read.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 2010
Format: Paperback
Søren Kierkegaard
Papers and Journals: A Selection
selected and translated by Alastair Hannay

(Hamondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1996) 683 pages
(ISBN: 0-14-044589-7; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: )

Several different selections from SK's journals and papers
are available in English,
even a few (like this one) that attempt to condense
the many volumes Kierkegaard left at his death into just one volume.

Alastair Hannay has chosen to focus on the events of SK's life
in preparing this volume.
(Other selections focus on his philosophy.)
Because of this biographical focus,
these selections are organized chronologically
into 7 phases of Søren Kierkegaard's life.

I recommend reading this selection alongside a biography of SK's life,
such as the one by Hannay himself.

James Leonard Park, existential philosopher.
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