Narrative Psychology: The Storied Nature of Human Conduct

By Theodore R. Sarbin | Go to book overview

8
Storytime: Recollecting the Past and Projecting the Future

Stephen Crites

One of the shorter pieces in the first volume of Søren Kierkegaard's Either/Or bears the title, "The Unhappiest." That is the literal rendering of the original Danish title, "Den Ulykkeligste. It stands in the published English translation as "The Unhappiest Man," but no such male preferment in the ranks of the unhappy is implied either in the original title or in the discourse, which celebrates the unhappiness of women and men alike. It is a speech delivered by Kierkegaard's pseudonymous personality, a young man identified simply as A, to the Symparanekromenoi, a society of the living dead that holds its meetings at ghostly hours of the night. Subtitled "An Enthusiastic Address to the Symparanekromenoi," the speech is received with reciprocal enthusiasm by this company of zombies, who are keen on unhappiness.

The speech has dialectical and perhaps scientific pretentions. "The unhappy person," the speaker explains to his attentive audience, "is one who has his ideal, the content of his life, the fullness of his consciousness, the essence of his being, in one way or another outside himself. He is alway absent, never present to himself" ( 1959, p. 220). 1 That may do for a general definition, but the speaker immediately goes on

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