A moving farewell
Updated: Jun 19
The story of Kierkegaard and Olsen is deeply moving. This passively passionate relationship has shaped the life of the two. After a year of engagement, Kierkegaard abruptly broke off the sacred bond with a farewell letter along with his engagement ring. For fourteen years no word had been exchanged between the two.
This was not an end, Kierkegaard’s deep love for Olsen endured. The motive behind this break up is not yet crystal clear.For some “Kierkegaard seems to have genuinely loved Olsen but was unable to reconcile the prospect of marriage with his vocation as a writer, his passionate, introspective Christianity and his constant melancholy.”
I also read a paper which argues that Kierkegaard wanted to give Olsen her due as an intellectual figure. His intelectual world owed much to Olsen and Kierkegaard wanted to step back to make way for Olsen, in the meanwhile dedicating all his works’ prefaces to her, “that single individual”.
I want to believe in the former as I can relate to the feeling. In the course of their fourteen years of silence (during which, Olsen married her tutor) they came across regularly in the walking trails of Copenhagen. These encounters do not seem to be mere coincidences. Kierkegaard notes them in his journal with vivid details:
“Then came my birthday. As a rule, I am always away on my birthday, but I was not feeling quite well. So I stayed at home; as usual, I walked into town to talk with the doctor because I had considered celebrating my birthday with something new, something I had never tasted before, castor oil. Right outside my door, on the sidewalk in front of the avenue, she meets me. As so often happens of late, I cannot keep from smiling when I see her—ah, how much she has come to mean to me!—she smiled in return and nodded. I took a step past her, then raised my hat and walked on.”
The life went on with its ups and downs until the 10th of September which was a special day since it marked their engagement day. They celebrated this special day every year with a strange ritual. They would take a walk by the pond and exchange glimpses when passing by.
There came a day when Kierkegaard had to leave Copenhagen to pursue his studies. Among the crowd he spots Olsen, who casually happened to be there. "Such coincidence!" he must have thought...