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Kierkegaard in English

In response to:

Everybody's Kierkegaard from the April 28, 1966 issue

To the Editors:

W. W. Bartley’s illuminating review in your issue of April 28 of The Last Years: Journals 1853-1855, by Soren Kierkegaard, translated by Ronald Gregor Smith, contains, I believe, a slight inaccuracy. Mr. Bartley says: “With the appearance of this part of Kierkegaard’s Journals, all but one of his published works are now translated into English.” It is true that several volumes of selections from the Journals have appeared in English, but this by no means represents “all” of this massive and important work which runs to twenty volumes in Danish. Indiana University Press is planning to publish four large volumes of selections from the Journals, translated and edited by Howard V. and Edna H. Hong, arranged by them, with full index and scholarly apparatus. Most of the selections included have not previously been available in English. This work will obviously be a far more comprehensive and orderly selection from Kierkegaard’s Journals than anything previously published in English: but even this will not be “all” of the Journals.

Miriam S. Farley

Managing Editor

Indiana University Press

Bloomington

W. W Bartley III replies:

Miss Farley is probably right in saying that not all of Kierkegaard’s Journals are as yet translated into English. The introduction to The Last Years (which I described as “obscure” in my review) is misleading. Ronald Gregor Smith, Professor of Divinity at Glasgow University, writes there (p. 10) that Kierkegaard’s writings “are now all available in English.” Apparently by “writings,” the Professor of Divinity meant something like this: “published works except for The Journals.”

When I read the introductory passage just quoted I was touched by a moment of skepticism; for there were sitting on my desk not only several of the all-too-many English “Selections” but also the Danish edition of the Papirer edited by Heiberg, Kuhr, and Torsting (not “Torsten” as Gregor Smith refers to him (p. 8)), the German edition of the Tagebücher translated by Gerdes, and what Gregor Smith describes as Fabro’s “splendid [Italian] edition of the Diario, 2nd. ed., 2 vols.” It is not easy in such circumstances to check such a matter out, since volumes differ in such respects as size of type and number of pages—and who knows who may just have published a hitherto unpublished excerpt from The Journals in English translation in some “little magazine”?

However this may be, a few substantive comments on Miss Farley’s letter are in order. I do not know how large Indiana University Press’s selections from the Journals are to be: But the Danish edition to which she must be referring runs to eleven (not twenty) volumes, published between 1909 and 1948 in twenty separately-bound sections of varying size. And these contain not only journal entries proper, but also sketches and notes connected with Kierkegaard’s authorship, and even notes connected with his reading. Although the Danish edition of the Papirer is the best in any language and admirable in many ways, its plan and projected contents were radically changed by its editors several times during a period extending over some forty years. Even the Danish edition, then, is in a bit of a mess.

Consequently, one can only give the Hongs and their publishers one’s best wishes. Still, I hope that if at all possible they will reconsider their plan to bring out some more selections, however large, and however scholarly the apparatus. If we need more Kierkegaard in English we need a proper critical edition of the entire corpus, not more selections. Were the present trend to continue, it would soon be easier for all those interested in Kierkegaard to learn Danish than to wade through the English-language selections and editors. It consoles me to think that Kierkegaard would have relished that thought.

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