by Matias Dalsgaard
A voice of the doubts in your head, and a search for answers in modern life.
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Matias Dalsgaard’s epistolary novel Don’t Despair is about urban modern living. It recounts the conflict between the extremes of Christian values and that of our present day hedonist lifestyle. The book voices the doubts in your head, and attempts to provide answers and strengthen hope. “The message ‘Don’t despair’ also contains a further message: that you don’t need to despair.”
You might wonder how this is all be accomplished in one piece of text after all of the deep life-reevaluating moments we’ve all had while in the shower. This isn’t just a chunk of questions to make you think; this is a story. Don’t Despair is a novel consisting of existential letters written from a Lutheran priest to his nephew Rasmus, a modern career person, the latter of whose world collapses after his girlfriend and child abandon him.
The book is Dalsgaard’s attempt at showing how Christianity at a psychological and existential level has a helpful message to the modern man. The book is a Lutheran-Kierkegaardian perspective on life, criticizing the modern perspective of being self-centered and ultimately despaired. “Your dissatisfaction with yourself speaks of a self-absorption, a vanity, which always gets in the way of your truly coming to rejoice in life.” The book, however, is not only a critique of a modern lifestyle and self-perception – it is a revelatory and helpful text. It is written with the intention to help the despaired modern person overcome despair, and find renewed joy and courage to exist.
Personally, the book represents two sides of Dalsgaard’s life that might never be fully reconciled: the side of Christian-existential seriousness and the side of business, consumption and infinite earthly ambitions.
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