...[a] lucid and riveting new biography, which at once rescues Kierkegaard from the scholars and makes it abundantly clear why he is such an intriguing and useful figure: that we want, above all, to be reassured about our lives rather than find out what about our lives matters to us ... Carlisle writes her biography partly in the present tense, as though Kierkegaard’s life is unfolding as it happens, which gives us an uncanny sense of the spectacular complexity of a life that Kierkegaard was at such pains to reveal ... Carlisle writes with verve and sympathy ... Kierkegaard’s life is exemplary, as Carlisle shows with such plain and accessible eloquence, because it was organised around the fear of being ridiculed. He reveals to us what we might do, what might be made, out of our fear of humiliation. As she suggests, after Kierkegaard, our most urgent question may not be why do we suffer?, but how should we suffer? ... Kierkegaard’s life and writing are a testament to the cruelty, the generosity and the inventiveness of those who believe in the Real Thing, the prophets of authenticity. Carlisle’s timely book gives us a good way of thinking about all this and of thinking about Kierkegaard again.
Clare Carlisle, in her sparkling, penetrative new biography...explains how Kierkegaard ran against the philosophical grain of his time ... Carlisle abandons standard chronology in favor of a three-part study ... With this unconventional structure — a fittingly oblique approach for a famously dialectical man — Carlisle is better able to crack open the philosopher’s life: What we get is a panorama of sorts ... Carlisle does not sacrifice intellectual rigor for the sake of this larger picture. Her work is demanding in its comprehensiveness ... Carlisle’s book is an essential guide to those beginning or reembarking on their Kierkegaard journey.
Carlisle has set out to write 'a Kierkegaardian biography of Kierkegaard,' which means that she cannot take the typical approach of standing complacently outside the events of his life, recounting them chronologically, with the historian’s retrospective knowledge of what they all mean and where they will lead ... It’s a theoretically sound approach, but the result is sometimes awkward ... While Carlisle emphasizes the importance of movement in Kierkegaard’s thought, her book can sometimes be curiously static. It is at its best when providing more straightforward explication ... [Carlisle] has an absolute mastery of Kierkegaard’s life and works. At the same time, she is a lucid and stylish writer who shares some of her subject’s suspicions of the academic approach. She succeeds wonderfully at what is obviously her chief goal, which is to give us some sense of why Kierkegaard’s task mattered so urgently for him, and of why it might matter for us.