Madhuri's Reviews > The Seducer's Diary

The Seducer's Diary by Søren Kierkegaard
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May 06, 08

bookshelves: german, philosophy, love, great-love
Read in May, 2008

Seducer's Diary is primarily a philosophical work from Soren Kierkegaard: a 19th century Danish philosopher, and one of the earlier enthusiasts of Existentialism. It is part of one of his most illustrative works Either/Or, which I hope to read sometime. In Either/Or, with a few fictional pseudonyms, Kierkegaard argues for both the aesthetic (Either) and ethical (Or) aspects of life. It is in the Either or the aesthetic part that Seducer's Diary finds its place.
In itself, the Seducer's Diary is a complete book, even though it gives a unidirectional perspective, as different from the balanced perspective that Kierkegaard intended with the complete book . It seductively indulges in aesthetics, in the joy and happiness of being in love.

Written as part of diary entries of Johannes, the seducer, recounting his deliberate planning and plotting in the pursuit of a girl Cordelia, the book takes us through the meticulous thought process of Johannes. His remarkable consciousness of Cordelia's mind and thoughts is evident in the reading of each entry. He plays on her subconscious, remaining on the periphery, gaining her confidence from this periphery and giving her a false sense of power over himself. As she gets drawn to him, he then introduces an aloofness, feigning distance and indicating a fading of this power, which makes her confused and anxious, and she tries eagerly to bridge this distance and resume power again.

The game seems simple enough. Certainly there are in this world many a men and women playing similar games in a less conscious form. However the consciousness of it is the most impressive part of the work, not to say mildly shocking.

There are some biographical allusions to this work, especially pointed out by John Updike in his introduction to this work (Incidentally, my edition did not have this introduction but I read parts of it in the google preview of this book). Kierkegaard himself broke up his engagement with a young girl (Regine Olson) whom he had coveted for a long time. He remained unmarried, and this work is seen as his confession, his version of the entire episode. Perhaps it could be so. But if it is remorse, there is little of it that is seen in this work, which remains a delicious, arrogant recounting of a laborious victory.

I loved this work, mainly for Kierkegaard's articulate expression of Johannes thoughts on love. There is also some truth in his words which is perhaps felt universally - most people rush to conquer and get engaged in love and they don't know what they have conquered. It is in the drawn out months before a confession or engagement is made, the months of pursuit that are more aesthetic. Hence it is the melodrama of pursuit and mischances that play out the center-stage in most movies, while the 'they lived happily ever after' is always the small inconsequential part which no one is interested in - the part at which people get up and leave.

A beautiful work. I may have idolized Johannes, were it not for his misogyny and nauseating views on women!
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