Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) was the world’s first great existential philosopher. May 5 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of his birth. This will be celebrated in Copenhagen during Golden Days and by the Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre at University of Copenhagen. The hundreds of exhibits and events planned for the city make it a top destination for the literary tourist in 2013.
Kierkegaard, despite now being famous around the world, didn’t get out much during his lifetime. He rarely left Copenhagen. As a result he’s very closely associated with the place – physically and spiritually.
Most days he could be found walking the streets of the city. One of the best ways to pay homage to him then, is to follow his footsteps along Østergade, Højbroplads, Slotsholmen, King’s New Square (Kongens Nytorv), Amaliegade, Toldboden, Nyboder, King’s Garden (Kongens Have) and down the Amagertorv stretch of the Stroget (which he called “the hub of the universe”). “Above all, do not lose your desire to walk,” he wrote. “Every day, I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts.” During his walks he was a keen observer of local social life and kept a close ear on street conversation, much of which made its way into his notebooks.
Kierkegaard was a particularly gloomy character as befits existentialism. What to read: Sickness Unto Death, is perhaps the best of his books to start with. Not surprisingly, its main theme is despair. One of his most famous quotes goes: “The crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die.”
Where to stay: A good literary tourist hotel choice is Ibsens – with secondhand books for sale in its library corner – on trendy Nansensgade.