An American translator in Copenhagen finds Kierkegaard’s prose easier to understand than the workings of his own heart.
Daniel Peters was 37 before he realized that his need for routine, lack of empathy, and social awkwardness were actually manifestations of Asperger’s syndrome. Mette Rasmussen, one of the few people Daniel did trust, helped him understand his condition. She also helped him secure a position at the Søren Kierkegaard Research Center, where she served as director. Daniel’s facility with language and laserlike attention to detail have won him the admiration, if not the friendship, of his colleagues. Now Mette is dead, and much as Daniel misses her, grief is not part of his emotional vocabulary. He recalls the sweetness of their early romance and his sadness when Mette’s parents forced them apart. But he contemplates their relationship not so differently from the way he contemplates Kierkegaard’s love of predictable, repeated patterns: historically, phenomenologically, but not personally. Daniel’s loss of Mette is compounded by the disappearance of a Kierkegaard manuscript from Mette’s safe deposit box. Daniel has translated the newly discovered poems—the only poetry Kierkegaard ever wrote—but because he doesn’t know how to use a computer, he’s saved his translation only in a paper copy, which of course is also missing. Homicide detective Ingrid Bendtner wants Daniel’s help decoding the internal politics of the research center, which she sees as the key to the case. Understanding human relationships, however, is just what’s hardest for him—including his increasingly complicated relationship with Ingrid.
Daniel’s debut places the solution to a mystery in the hands of someone whose own mind is a mystery, most of all to himself. Here’s hoping Satterlee will give Daniel another go.