The unexpected premise of this offbeat novel is a self-made tragedy in the life of the Danish philosopher, Kierkegaard. In early adulthood, Kierkegaard broke up with a woman he deeply loved in order to save her from a life of misery with him. His exit plan—designed to prevent her having regrets—was to make himself odious. The plan worked, but it caused him to live with the knowledge that he had deceived his own true love; and that knowledge, and the loss of love, informed the rest of his life and influenced all of his work.
The narrator in Vincent Delecroix's slightly wacky and fully humorous novel has a degree in philosophy and specializes in Kierkegaard. When the narrator breaks up with Maren, his longtime girlfriend, he feels the need to write an explanation. He discards the obvious idea of writing her a letter, thinking that perhaps he will write his autobiography instead. But then he decides that instead of writing about his own life, he will write for her the biography of Kierkegaard, his melancholic hero. What woman wouldn't be pleased with that?
While in the process of writing, he visits the Danish Visitor's Center of Paris, where he reads a help-wanted ad for a tour-bus driver. In need of money and distraction, and fluent in Danish because of his studies, he applies for and gets the job despite his lack of knowledge of the sights of the city. And so, with a tour-bus driver who knows almost nothing about the monuments of Paris, way too little about women, and far too much about Kierkegaard, what could go wrong?
As he tries to explain what he is doing with his life to others, including a hairdresser, his parents, and more, we learn about the philosopher's life and thoughts and understand some of the aching parallels between his life and Kierkegaard's. But this book is not your college professor's Kierkegaard. It's a poignant and original love story that teaches us about more than philosophy. We learn how a man can lose his wife in a forest; how to become a javelin thrower; how to conduct yourself when jumping off the Eiffel Tower; and, perhaps most important, we learn the meaning of the Scheherazade Law