Page 38 of 40

Once Upon a Time in Denmark…

Once upon a time, or to be more precise, back in 1996, when I was still living in Denmark, the English novelist David Lodge gave a lecture on Kierkegaard in Copenhagen. This event, if my memory serves me correctly, was part of the festivities connected with Copenhagen’s status as the official “Culture Capital of Europe” for that year. Lodge’s book Therapy, where both Kierkegaard and Copenhagen figure prominently, had come out the year before.

I don’t remember much about Lodge’s talk except that it was well attended and that Lodge bore a striking resemblance to Roy Orbison.

Both Anthony Rudd and I gave papers that summer at a conference entitled “The Brain and Self” in Elsinore. The conference appeared to have been geared primarily toward people in the medical profession, so the registration was expensive. One of my close friends in Copenhagen (who shall remain nameless for reasons that will become clear below), wanted to attend the conference but couldn’t afford the cost of the registration. He decided, therefore, to crash the conference by forging a name badge.

This, as you can understand, made me extremely uncomfortable. I implored my friend to at least keep a low profile. We were required to introduce ourselves and to mention our institutional affiliation before asking a question of any of the speakers. It was thus important, I explained to him, that he not ask any questions. One of the conference organizers appeared, in fact, to be carrying around a list of the officially registered participants and to be checking the names of attendees against the list. Of course my friend ignored me, to both my consternation and that of the organizer who scanned his list with increasingly obvious anxiety every time my friend stood and held forth on what he perceived to be a problem with the speaker’s position.

Anthony, who is one of the most ethical people I know, was none too happy with this situation either. Tensions in our little group were thus running high when my friend came to us with the revelation that he had seen David Lodge among the conference participants. David Lodge speaking on Kierkegaard was one thing, but David Lodge at a medical conference was something else. Had he seen Elvis too? We had a great deal of fun teasing our friend about his “visions.” We were forced to apologize, however, when, toward the end of the conference, Lodge did indeed appear as speaker. The most memorable thing about Lodge’s second public appearance in Denmark within the space of a year was that he appeared to be reading his presentation. That is, he was looking down at his papers so the moderator could not get his attention and, after repeated attempts to indicate discretely that he was going overtime, began to march back and forth in front of him, dipping and weaving, in vain attempts to attract Lodge’s attention to the sign he had made that must have said something like “Stop!”

This spectacle was so amusing, that it went a long way toward helping Anthony and me get over the guilt we felt at having failed to believe our friend.

I have since then been in the position myself of having to indicate to speakers when they were going overtime. If after the standard “5” “3” “1” “0” warnings, the speaker is still going strong, I’ve found that a quickly sketched scull and crossbones usually does the trick.

Repetition and Philosophical Crumbs Online!

I made another great discovery a few days ago. My translation of Kierkegaard’s Repetition and Philosophical Crumbs (Oxford, 2009) is now on Google books. Yes, that’s right. It’s not the whole version, but only a portion of it. Still, what’s there is searchable. This is very good news because the print version has no index. Oxford decided against the inclusion of an index, I presume, because including one would have increased production costs and delayed publication (see below). Of course this wouldn’t have been a problem if Oxford had produced an ebook version along with the paperback. Unfortunately, Oxford does not appear to be so forward looking as Cambridge, which produced a Kindle edition of Alastair Hannay’s new translation of Kierkegaard’s Concluding Unscientific Postscript (which is not only searchable but is only $17.60 as opposed to $33.81 for the paperback).

I’d like to put in a plug here for ebooks, and, in particular, for the Kindle ebook reader. I won my Kindle in a contest sponsored by the German publisher Springer just over a year ago and fell completely in love with it. I can get books instantly on my Kindle from wherever I am, I can highlight and cut and paste text and make notes and then upload all this material to my computer. Kindle also allows me to move easily back and forth between text and notes. It’s a scholar’s dream. Yes, it is a way for Amazon to sell books, but what’s wrong with that. I was buying tons of books from Amazon already anyway. Now I am paying less for them. What people don’t know, however, is that many of the books in the “Kindle store” are actually free because they are in the public domain. When you search for a book, if it’s what you could call a classic, then you’ll normally get several pages of hits. If you don’t have to have a particular edition and you don’t want to pay for the book, you just have to look through the various editions until you find the free ones (there are often several free editions). You can also put ebooks that you already have as Word or pdf files on your Kindle.

Ebooks are both the future of reading and the future of scholarship.

I’m sure there’s more great stuff out there on Google books. If my new translations are up there, then there are going to be lots of other books you’ve been wanting but have put off buying because of the expense. Try a little web surfing yourself and if you find anything good, let me know!

(See blog entry from 1/16/11 for info about a free index to Repetition and Philosophical Crumbs.)

Happy New Year!

“Hip, Hip, hurrah” Antisemitic?

Peter Tudvad’s excellent Stadier på Antisemitismens Vej: Søren Kierkegaard og Jøderne (Stages on the way of antisemitism: Søren Kierkegaard and the Jews) is full of interesting facts. I reported already how N.F.S. Grundtvig, a pastor in the Danish Lutheran Church, was a staunch defender of the Jews. Well, I learned something else very interesting last night. The English expression “hip, hip, hurrah” is possibly of anti-Semitic origin. It seems “hep” (or “hepp”) was a cry Germans used in the herding of goats. They also used it, however, to taunt Jewish men, It’s unclear, observes Tudvad, whether this was because it was an acronym for ‘Hierosolyma est perdita’ (‘Jerusalem is lost,’ an exclamation purportedly from the Roman conquest of Jerusalem and burning of the temple in the year 70) or because the beards of Jewish men were taken to resemble goats’ beards (pp. 38-39; see also, Tudvad’s reference to Alex Bein, Die Judenfrage. Biographie eines Weltproblems [The Jewish Question: the Biography of a Global Problem], [Stuttgard, 1980], vol. 2, p. 160). This, in any case, observes Tudvad, is the description of the expression Kierkegaard would have found in his copy of Johann Samuel Ersch and Johann Gottfried Gruber’s Allgemeine Encyklopädie der Wissenschaften und Künste (General Encyclopedia of the Arts and Sciences),  2nd section, eds. Georg Hassel and Andreas Gottlieb (Leipzig, 1829), part 5, p. 361.

It seems “hep, hep” became the rallying cry not only of the mob violence that broke out against Jews across Germany in 1819, but also the violence that broke out against Jews in Denmark in the same year.