At first glance, you might think you’ve met a guy like Søren Kierkegaard. Picture the kind of sad young literary man who knows his Romantic poets. He meets a teenage girl at a party and gets her hooked on his learning and his brooding nature. She plays the piano for him. ‘Although your playing may not be perfect in the artistic sense,’ he tells her, love makes it all OK. Then he loses interest in her and tries to be mean so she’ll break things off. Finally, he dumps her and goes to Berlin. It was all her fault. She never really knew him. She should have noticed he was unhappy and broken up with him. He could never have ‘become himself’ with her and he would only have made her unhappy. And by the way, she’s nothing special, and when it comes down to it, he loved her better than she loved him. In Berlin, their relationship becomes material for his new book.
Look again and you’ve probably never met anyone exactly like him. For one thing, Kierkegaard was not a serial offender. After the break-up, Regine Olsen, the girl in question, became an obsession. In his books and journals, Kierkegaard tried to understand why he broke off the engagement, what she must