Kierkegaard is a puzzling and difficult writer who cannot be understood without patience. His style is often as polished and beautiful as ever came from Danish pen, but it sometimes puzzles even educated Danes themselves. They find him as difficult as an Englishman finds Browning. Yet Kierkegaard has frequently been translated in a hurry, and generally he has been interpreted to the English-speaking world by interpreters who know no Danish. Also, apart from his own peculiarities of style, he is steeped in the Hegelian jargon of his day; and because he was concerned to combat this current Hegelianism, or rather its attendant evils and dangers, he could not avoid using its terminology.
But, though much has been written about Kierkegaard, the primary need for English readers of explaining, sorting out, and commenting upon the actual words that Kierkegaard wrote has not yet been met. Kierkegaard's message is still strange to, and but dimly understood by, most English and American readers. They have a wistful notion that Kierkegaard is a great man, and that they ought to know more about him. And yet, even though they have read books about him, they often feel they cannot get through to the man himself. They read the English translations, but they feel a deep need for clarification of Kierkegaard's actual text; and it is this need that my book, so far as its size permits, sets out to try to meet.
In the first three chapters I have tried to clear the way, by giving a general survey of the plan, the aims, and the methods of Kierkegaard. This includes a simple preliminary explanation of some of the more important terminology. The deeper implications of this terminology appear as the book proceeds.
After Chapter III, I have taken several of the pseudonymous works (see Appendix B for these, and Appendix A for a complete list of the pseudonyms) and have tried to explain them by re-presenting, and I hope elucidating, their main themes, always working from the Danish text and not from the English translations -- though in the notes I refer to both. This process of explanation . . .