What We Talk About When We Talk About Tormented Philosophers In Love

You can have your Samsons and Delilahs, your Romeos and Juliets, your Abelards and Heloises. I’ll take Kierkegaard and Regine.

Whether in spite or because of the ominous journey ahead of her, Regine made an important decision, it seems, on the day of her departure: she sought out a strange man to whom she had once been engaged; a man who had left her, and to whom she had not spoken in 14 years. But if they had not spoken, Regine Olsen and Søren Kierkegaard had not exactly remained strangers either. For years they had passed each other on their walks throughout the city, often in an openly calculated fashion. On Kierkegaard’s 39th birthday, for instance, Regine suddenly appeared on the street in front of his home on Østerbro. “As often happens to me of late, I can’t help but smile when I see her,” the melancholy Dane wrote in his journal. His smile was returned, whereupon the birthday boy removed his hat in greeting. Then, as if by agreement, the old lovers again went their separate ways.

That’s Morten Høi Jensen writing in the L.A. Review of Books. Anyone the least bit familiar with Kierkegaard’s writings will know how tormented he was by the unfulfilled love he had for Regine. Now we hear Regine’s side of the story – and we learn that she too felt a connection to him.

So what happened?

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