Thompson, author of two previous books on Kierkegaard, has written what will stand as the definitive introduction to the melancholy Dane for some time to come. Beginning with the mysterious curse which blighted the life of Soren's father, the venerable patriarch of this doom-obsessed family, Thompson approaches the son, ""haunted by the sense of his own unreality, his nonbeing,"" probing the externally uneventful life and the seminal philosophical works, including the large corpus of pseudonymous writings which poured from Kierkegaard's pen even as he retreated ""into an aesthetic cocoon."" Thompson never really explains the dread and the frightful sense of guilt transmitted from father to son. Was it the burden of the old man's ancient curse on God while still a peasant in Jutland? Was it the second marriage to the servant girl he had impregnated? Whatever its source -- Thompson speculates but doesn't commit himself -- the expectation of doom along with the spiritual isolation it fostered led the son to experience ""consciousness as a wound."" To assuage it there was only Christian faith -- not the sclerotic Christianity of the Danish bourgeoisie -- but the faith of Abraham fraught with terror and trembling, a faith requiring ""the mutilation of one's sanity."" One might wish that Thompson's study had extended to a juxtaposition of Kierkegaard against the backdrop of an essentially optimistic age heady with a sense of man's power. This he doesn't do, preferring to treat the godfather of Existentialism on his own asocial, involuted terms. Nonetheless this is a strong and challenging attempt to link consciousness and creativity in the interior life of this sui generis ""genius in a market town.