He died searching for the meaning of life, aged 42
This Saturday will mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of Denmark’s most prominent academic figures: Søren Kierkegaard. The next week will see various activities celebrate the life and endeavours of one of Copenhagen’s greatest sons.
Before passing away in 1855 aged just 42 (the meaning of life, anyone?), Kierkegaard produced his works during what came to be known as the Danish Golden Age of intellectual activity.
His contemporaries included such important figures as writer HC Andersen, sculptor Bertel Torvaldsen and JC Jacobsen, the founder of the Carlsberg brewery. Yet even among these great names, Kierkegaard stands tall.
Known as the father of existentialism, he was prolific within philosophy, fictional literature and social criticism, to name but a few.
As Kierkegaard spent his entire life in Copenhagen − in fact he only left it five times − it therefore seems fitting that the city should spare no expense during his celebration.
The celebrations of the bicentenary of his birth actually started back in February with seminars on his works, walking tours through his Copenhagen and open debates about the legacy of his works. The activities will culminate during the weekend with different events being dotted around the city. Here is a selection of some that are going on this weekend that are suitable for English speakers.
LOVE, FAITH, CHOICE
On Sunday, Den Sorte Diament (the Black Diamond) invites participants to LOVE, FAITH, CHOICE, a discussion involving three renowned figures from very different backgrounds: Rene Redzepi, the head chef of Noma, the American author Siri Hustvedt and the French philosopher Pascal Bruckner. Each interviewee will discuss their own special take on how Kierkegaard has influenced them and their work. The event is hosted by Paul Holdengräber, the head of New York Public Libraries’ Live from the NYPL, and marks the height of the celebrations.
Den Sorte Diament, Søren Kierkegaards Plads 1, Cph K; Sun 16:00; tickets 140kr, concessions available, www.kb.dk
Stamping Kierkegaard into history
The post office, Post Danmark, will release a celebratory stamp in honour of Kierkegaard. As part of the release, an exhibition is being displayed at the round tower, Rundetaarn. There you can see all the different sketches considered for the stamp, as well as the final design.
Rundetaarn, Købmagergade 33, Cph K; every day 10:00-18:00; tickets: 25kr, children 5kr
Kierkegaard and HC Andersen: the foes rest together
Most people would group the two together under the banner of “great Danish literary figures”, but it is doubtful the two would appreciate any sort of common denominator, even though they are buried in the same cemetery. In 1837 Andersen published his third novel, Kun en spillemand, which promoted Kierkegaard to write a 90-page assault on the work. This was later answered by Andersen, who mocked Kierkegaard in the play En Comedie I det Grønne. This literary beef is explored in an exhibition at Assistens Kirkegaardin Nørrebro, where you’ll also find both of their graves.
Kulturcentret Assistens, Kapelvej 4, Cph N; starts Sat, ends Sep 20, open Tue-Fri 11:00-16:00; Tickets 20kr; www.assistens.dk
Kierkegaard was a Copenhagener through and through, and a guided walk around his city will help establish an understanding of the environment that shaped his persona as well as his works. The tour will provide participants with the story of his life, comments on some of his most famous works, as well as information about his failed relationship with Regine Olesen, which would influence his works till the end.
Meet at Nytorv outside court building, Domhuset; Wed 17:00-19:00; tickets 100kr, under-12s free adm; www.peter-og-ping.dk
Kierkegaard and the Golden Age
Explore the world of Kierkegaard in the Golden Age rooms at the Museum of National History.
Frederiksborg Castle, Museum of National History, Hillerød; ends Nov 11, open 10:00-17:00
Works and objects of love
The Museum of Copenhagen presents a collection of objects and exhibits inspired by Kierkegaard’s reflections on the nature of love.
Museum of Copenhagen, Vesterbrogade 59, Cph V; starts Sat, open 10:00-17:00