It is not enough to conquer, one must know how to seduce. – Voltaire
After twelve years I finally took the suggestion of a good friend and read The Seducer’s Diary. It did not take more than a dozen pages of anticipation for me to start to understand why this was such a formative book for her, for alongside the oft-told tale of a boy wooing a girl was a powerful undercurrent of insightful observations about love and other powerful forces which motivate human action.
One such subject of the book that I deeply enjoyed was Kirkegaard’s description of the gradations of various feelings elicited through various romantic gestures. Each one carries with it a certain psychic energy – if they are receptive objects of affection. From looks to words he describes the way in which different types of can make a young girl blushes. He illustrates a “long game” approach to winning the seducing a young girl considered to be the height of attraction both physically and morally. This approach of her as a specimen to be won is, according to lore, the means that the author used to encourage the quick psychic healing of his betrothed upon his departure and annulment of their pre-marital vows of commitment.
The form of seduction that Kirkegaard takes is a slow one, first insinuating himself into her life through a friend and then through letters and social events gaining greater sway over her mind. This excerpt from Either/Or contains a number of journalistic styled notes and short letters that are voiced as an explanation to his actions or are sent from K to Cordelia. This facsimile of old correspondence or that which was fictionally altered to appear as a document of amorous ephemera provides a compelling form for reflections on life, love and honesty. One of which that Kierkegaard makes that I found especially lovely was his analogy about love:
“When it comes to the labyrinth of her heart, every young girl is an Ariadne; she holds the thread by which one can find the way through – but she possesses it in such a way that she herself does not know how to use it.”
For K, the path to love is not about immediate infatuation based upon sexual desire, something that is repeatedly criticized as it leads the urges to a tempestuous psychic place to be avoided. It is, instead the slow fertilizing thoughts that helps the spirit grow into a recognition of the male’s spiritually directive role. This is resisted on the grounds of pride, and this dynamics informs a dialectical dances between the lovers whose steps are the movements and memories created between the too. Each choice of action and response informs the love created and determines whether or not it is a healthy one or one that is diseased due to excessive reification of the other. Writing this in this format makes the lessons learned seem dry and obtuse – but this distillation of the content of longer, lyric language is a far cry from Kirkegaard’s style. It has many similarities, at points, to two of my favorite writers – Henry Miller and Milan Kundera.
The seduction of Cordelia by K is brought to an end when it seems that K has come to doubt his spiritual fortitude. His quest to win her, what he once wanted, now seems anathema to him. Amusingly enough this seems to give credence to the Taylor Swift lyrics “Boys only want love if it’s torture.” He is of the belief that by breaking things off with her, she will develop to even greater heights of character than were she to remain with him. Being that woman is inherently, to K, a being-for-others she will, upon reflecting on their break up Cordelia can find true freedom. This seems to be because, despite his imbrications against it, he seems to have an aesthetic constitution as it relates to love and wants a certain resistance.
Something else that I found amusing while reading the books were the techniques Kierkegaard uses to win the attentions of his inamorata, Cordelia. While by no means a how to guide aligned with PUA literature like The Pickup Artist, the book nevertheless illustrates some of the methods outlined within. K engages in extended conversation with her Cordelia’s aunt in order to establish his value amongst her community of peers.
There are many things which I enjoyed about it and I have the feeling that this is one of those works that I will read again in a few years and get something new about it.