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Kierkegaard: Concluding Unscientific Postscript (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy) Paperback – 28 May 2009
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'Aesthetically, it is a masterpiece: it brings Climacus to life in English as never before; it expertly initiates the reader into the Postscript's riddles and satisfactions. It is, in sum, ideal for the non-specialist reader - and the clear best choice for the undergraduate classroom.' David D. Possen, Yale University
Kierkegaard's Concluding Unscientific Postscript is a classic of existential literature, the text that philosophers look to first when attempting to define Kierkegaard's own philosophy. This volume offers the work in a new translation by Alastair Hannay, together with an introduction that sets the work in its philosophical and historical contexts.See all Product description
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This is the third English translation of the "Concluding Unscientific Postscript", written in February 1846. The first two were done by American translators, in 1941 and 1992. One might ask whether a third version was already necessary. I believe it was. Kierkegaard's extensive and, perhaps, most important pseudonymous work deserves this version because of its difference. And Hannay's translation is different, perhaps because his background, credentials, approach and purpose are also different from those of his predecessors'.
This is the first English "Postscript" translation done by a European "neighbour", a Scot, who has been living, thinking and writing in Norway for more than forty years. (Written Danish and Norwegian were "identical" until the beginning of the 20th century.) While most translators of Kierkegaard live and translate abroad in their respective countries, learn Danish as a foreign language and are happy to make occasional brief visits to Copenhagen to refresh their Kierkegaard links, Hannay is a Continental philosopher naturalized in the spiritual and geographical Scandinavian landscape. He has written numerous books and articles on Kierkegaard, not to mention his translations and recent Kierkegaard biography. The attentive (comparative) reader will immediately notice that this translation highlights new facets of the "Postscript": Kierkegaard's metaphors, his "talker's language" and "idiolecticity". Kierkegaard's style, irony and the oral character of his writing become clear by means of transparent, airy, playful and non-sanctimonious English. Hannay detects the lyrical undertow of Kierkegaadian prose, the tension in the text, and renders Kierkegaard's anti-speculative thinking, his wit and whims in living, inviting English without a hint of pedantry. He does so subtly and without marring Kierkegaard's philosophy or unnecessarily "modernizing" the original language.
Adrian Arsinevici, Denmark
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Either way you go, Kierkegaard is a great writer and he is really a joy to read through all of the translators. From what I can gather from those who know Kierkegaard's language better, both the Hong translations and the Hannay translations are superior to the Swenson/Lowrie ones.
However, I don't know Danish so I can only comment on how the translations read differently. Compared to the Hannay translation, the Hong translation seems more technical in the rendering of Kierkegaard. The prose of the Hong translation feels more formal in style. This can even be seen in the title differences: 'Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the Philosophical Fragments' (Hong) vs 'Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the Philosophical Crumbs' (Hannay). The Hannay translation portrays a more humorous and witty pseudonymous character - Johannes Climacus has more of a personality in the Hannay translation. This adds an enjoyable dimension to the reading, and it's fitting, Climacus is supposed to be a humorist first and foremost. I whole heartedly agree with the above reviewer, J. C. Woods on the humor of Climacus in the book. For this reason I prefer Hannay/Piety when I read the Johannes Climacus pseudonym. Conversely, I prefer the Hongs when I read the Anti-Climacus pseudonym (The Sickness Unto Death) due to the acute sense of precision and urgency in the prose.
In any case, the virtue of this translation is that I have always imagined the book as taking place at table, where, after dinner, a nineteenth century fop, between drags on his cigar and the occasional sip of cognac, tells me very efficiently, if somewhat tipsily, what's what. The translator, from what I have read, gets the character, Johannes Climacus (our first person narrator), spot on. I really get the feeling I am with the character and that is quite an accomplishment.
I suspect that such verisimilitude is rare because most translators are academicians and Kierkegaard is an amateur, as interested in literary effect as in philosophical cogency. Scholars tend to forget that this is not a philosophical treatise, but a novel with a protagonist who delivers an ordered monologue about religion, history, theology and faith. Hannay seems very aware of this and of conveying the book's novelistic quality. Good for him.
The thinking in this book is like philosophers considering themselves more advanced than geometers because the angles of a triangle always add up to 180 degrees, which makes it impossible for geometry to consider a triangle with two right angles but the philosophers are setting up a dialectic in which two sides are infinitely long or the line between the two right angles is becoming infinitely small. The idea of a tangeant in calculus is the kind of pure idea that makes Kierkegaard choose Lessing as a thinker in the section on Possible and actual theses of Lessing, as opposed to: "Maybe this infinity of reflection is the bad infinity -- in that case we are soon finished, for the bad infinity is meant to be some despicable something or other that has to be given up the sooner the better." (p. 95).
Bubbles in economics work like a spurious infinity when everybody can see that nobody will be able to keep track of where to send the interest on all the borrowed money when the electricity goes out and the lights are shut off. Shooting for $14 trillion of money that has already been spent is a method that is not all that scrupulous about not understanding a joke.