M.G. Piety

Glowing Review of Tudvad’s book on Kierkegaard and Anti-Semitism

In Kierkegaard and the Jews, News from Copenhagen on January 19, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Well, finally, we have a review by someone who actually read the book. The literary critic Michael Nielsen reviewed Stadier på Antisemitismens Vej: Søren Kierkegaard and the Jews (Stages on the Way of Anti-Semitism: Søren Kierkegaard and the Jews) in Kultunaut an online journal of culture. Here’s what Nielsen has to say:

“Tudvad is first and foremost a driven arkivrotte [this translates literally as ‘archive rat,’ but is probably better translated as ‘scholar’ since we have no idiomatic expression in English that corresponds to ‘archive rat’] who conscientiously combs through original sources and meticulously documents the claims he makes in his books. […] It’s clear, however, in this important book on Kierkegaard’s views on Jews, that Tudvad has striven to write in a more flowing prose and to divide the material in a more reader-friendly manner which makes this book, in my opinion, his best to date.”

“Tudvad is the first [scholar] who has had the courage to conduct an investigation [of the question of Kierkegaard’s views on Jews and Judaism] with the sobriety, objectivity and thoroughness it requires.”

“Tudvad presents Kierkegaard’s views in relation to both earlier and contemporary theologians and uses references from his journals and published works to show how his views developed throughout his authorship. All this is extremely competent and convincing.”

This book, Nielsen concludes, is a “must have” for anyone interested in “intellectual history.”

That last point is very important because what many of the early articles on the book seem to miss is that it is an enormously rich resource of information about Jews and Judaism in 19th-century Denmark. There is nothing else like it in Danish and I feel fairly confident in saying that there is probably nothing else like it in any other language. Of course it is not surprising that the early articles about the book missed this, because most of them were written by people who acknowledged that they had not read the book. Now that people have had time to read it, I expect we’ll see more reviews like Nielsen’s.

Tudvad is in New York now doing research for his forthcoming book on Bonhoeffer. I met with him there last weekend and hope to post a short interview with him soon.

 

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