Soren Kierkegaard :
"Even if you offered me a place in the great edifice of the system, I would rather be the kind of thinker who just sits on a branch."
May 5 2013 was SK's (1813-1855) 200th birth anniversary. Widely considered the father of existentialism, Strindberg, Ibsen, Nietzsche, Kafka, Borges, Camus, Sartre, Wittgenstein, Derrida are among his 'children'...what a troublesome family!
As far as I know leading Marathi daily Loksatta (लोकसत्ता) did not celebrate the anniversary event.
I don't think the entire Indian media really bothered about it. So why do I single out a Marathi periodical?
The short answer: Ashok Shahane's (अशोक शहाणे) book 'Napeksha' (नपेक्षा), 2005, one of the best Marathi books of this century.
In an essay from the book, Mr. Shahane writes that he is frustrated to note that 19th century Marathi social reformers-essayists-creative writers such as Lokhitwadi (लोकहितवादी 1823-1892), Chiplunkar (चिपळूणकर 1850-1882), Agarkar (आगरकर 1856-1895) , Tilak (टिळक 1856-1920), Ketkar (केतकर 1884-1937), despite being his 'contemporaries', were NOT influenced by Kierkegaard at all .
"कीकेंगार्डच्याच काळात लोकहितवादीनी लिखाण केले आहे, कीकेंगार्डपासून युरोपमध्ये विचारांच्या क्षेत्रात एक नवीनच वृत्ती आली. कीकेंगार्डने तर्कबुद्धीला प्रचंड धक्का देणारे लिखाण हेतुपुरःसरच केले आणि आमच्या लोकहितवादीनी मात्र सबंध विचाराचा पाया केवळ बुद्धीनेच घातला जावा अशी धडपड केली. कीकेंगार्डच्याच काळात लोकहितवादीनी लिहिले ही निदान आता तरी क्रूर थट्टाच वाटते."
("Lokhitwadi wrote during the times of Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard brought a new attitude in the field of thoughts in Europe. Kierkegaard wrote what purposely gave a big jerk to logical reasoning and our Lokhitwadi struggled to build the base of entire thought by intellect alone. Lokhitwadi wrote during the times of Kierkegaard at least now looks a cruel joke.")
In 21st century, A C Grayling (1949-) attacks Kierkegaard thus:
(Wikipedia informs fideism is an epistemological theory which maintains that faith is independent of reason, or that reason and faith are hostile to each other and faith is superior at arriving at particular truths.)
Can't we say that some of these 19th century borne Maharashtrians. opposed fideism- remember some one like Agarkar was clearly an atheist- and hence did not approve of philosophy of Kierkegaard? And if so, how can they be influenced by him?
In the same essay, Shahane expects Agarkar to catch the 'virus' of Nietzscheism (Kierkegaardism in turn) present in the 19th century air even if he did not get to see his books- a kind of induction working on great minds across geographies and vast distances.
Be that as it may, I wonder how much writing in Marathi from any period since 1813 has been influenced by Kierkegaard.
My answer: very little.
We already know his 200th birthday has been ignored.
Even Vinda Karandikar's (विंदा करंदीकर) award-winning book 'ASHTADARSHANE’ (अष्टदर्शने), 2003 has Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bergson, Charvak.
Therefore, I am not all that frustrated with 19th century Marathi greats on Kierkegaard count.
"Soren Kierkegaard in the coffee-house", 1843
Artist: Christian Olavius Zeuthen
Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
(to be continued...)