Andersen, of course, has always been a global crowd-pleaser, who, as the Danes like to say, writes about “the galoshes of happiness,” while Kierkegaard, who writes about “the place where the shoe hurts,” ….
If your soul has bunions, however, reading Kierkegaard may inflame them: he invented self-doubt in its modern form. “Either/Or,” for example, ought really to be subtitled “Neither.” Kierkegaard, who has often been called the father of existentialism, champions the examined life, and the conscious choice that informs it—yet he mocks choice as futile. “I see it all perfectly,” he wrote. “There are two possible situations—one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it—you will regret both.” (The advice was proffered, originally, to anyone contemplating marriage. In the cartoon supplement, a duck holds forth on the either/or of putting croutons in your salad.)