The Literary Intersection of Love and Philosophy in Martin Andic's Summer Afternoon

Danslav Slavenskoj


This paper explores the relationship of philosophical articles of Martin Andic (1940–2005) with his short story Summer Afternoon, which we see as the expression of his thoughts on love as the practice of philosophy in literary form.


Martin Andic, Plato, Kierkegaard, Simon Weil, philosophy, erotic literature

Martin Andic (1940–2005), was a professor of philosophy, and a son of the late Secretary-General of The Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (Společnost pro vědy a umění), Vojtech Andic. His writings and interests were broad, and included Greek and medieval philosophy, metaphysics, and religion. He enjoyed exploring the thoughts of such authors and philosophers as Simone Weil, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy. In the autumn of 1999, however, he published an unusual short story entitled “Summer Afternoon” in the Harvard Review, a literary journal published by the Houghton Library at Harvard University, and dedicated, as it describes itself, to “the finest poetry and short fiction being written.” Since love, in the context of philosophy, was theme upon which Andic dwelled for many years, it is not altogether surprising that this short story reflected his passion. Although Martin Andic’s reasons for writing the short story, which can be described as both philosophical and erotic, are unknown, it was an unusual, if not unexpected step to move from philosophy to literature, and so we will explore the relationship of Summer Afternoon to Andic’s philosophical works.

We can trace the path that Andic took through his philosophical articles, which may be read as a prequel to his Summer Afternoon. These articles came out over the course of a decade, starting in 1992 with Confidence as a Work of Love, and were followed by Supernatural Justice and the Madness of Love, The Love of Truth, and One Moment of Pure Attention is Worth all the Good Works in the World.

In Confidence as a Work of Love, Andic explores Kierkegaard’s conceptions of confidence, as it relates to love, which is seen by Kierkegaard as a reflection of the relationship of a human with the divine. A relationship, which is described as something which “love (‘the eternal’) is double present in an individual who relates himself to it, being inwardly to him exactly as he is outwardly to others, in such a way that, as he gives to others (in ‘reduplication’) what he acquires from God.” (ANDIC, 1992, p. 166). Echoes of this thought we find in Summer Afternoon, but now expressed in literary form, when the author questions the idea of reciprocity: “Once when I was eight years old I questioned my parents about it in the greenhouse and they laughed, but when I asked them what the orchids wanted from us—whether they only meant us to fall in love with them or did they love us too and want us to love them back, and what did they want that for—and seeing how deeply earnest I was my mother and father took alarm and packed me off for the rest of the summer to my uncle at the beach where there were no greenhouses and gardens, and though I loved it there I learned never to mention this again, never to let them see me gazing. But the thought lived in my heart like a seed with all these summers in it.” (ANDIC, 1999, p. 24). This seeing of seemingly divine qualities in the orchids themselves, continues, when Andic describes that he knew not when he would see the object of his love in nature itself: “when she would manifest, through generally it was in the garden, in a pot of wood chips, in bark on a worktable, in the crotch of a tree. Space folded up and unfolded and there she was, smoking and ready to burst into flame, other times cool and wet and dangerously effervescent.” (ANDIC, 1999, p. 25). Describing the experience as “the attention that Zen people call satori and extract, except that it is ecstasy for two, in and with on another” he explains that “longing and pleasure in fulfilment is expressed in the old myths of gods loving mortals, knowing connection.”

It is this connection between the divine and the ability of the lover to see the divine in the beloved, and indeed, in all of nature, is what draws Summer Afternoon away from the merely erotic, despite the sensual language used in the essay, to the philosophical. Andic goes beyond Kierkegaard, beyond his Christian understanding of faith, and takes us to the world where we are remembering the old myths of gods, as surely, he did, and finding her, in an instant “breaking down of self and the barriers that you usually put up between subject and object” in an ecstatic experience of union where “the exquisite flow of the motion and vision is not merely felt.” (ANDIC, 1999, p. 25).

The moment when this occurs: “The sea wall vanishes and the tide comes. In waves, rhythmic, responsive, in unison. You are both together and each singly, like an ellipse with two points of focus.” is a moment which is achieved through attention, for to see this moment that is what is required: “like animals before an earthquake. She came to me out of the silence, and then there was nothing but her.” (ANDIC, 1999, p. 25). This attention is what Andic finds in Simon Weil’s “‘pure reception’ unmixed with reverie” (ANDIC, 1998, p. 354) which “bends toward and touches what desire seeks, so that pure desire and pure attention are one in loving contemplation. Attention is ecstasy, not only because it is literally selfless (kenotic), but also because it is joy to touch reality.” (ANDIC, 1998, p. 354).

This moment, of course, can be described as madness, and in his article Supernatural Justice and the Madness of Love, Andic again explored this topic as it appeared in the texts of Simone Weil, but also refers to Aristotle and David Hume: “Simon Weil refuses to admit any real difference between justice and love, unless it would be to say that justice presupposes love and fulfils it. She regards them both as supernatural and divine, and says that, humanly speaking, they are absurd and mad, perhaps impossible, and that is why they are present only by the inspiration of God: they are a participation in him, and what he is.” (ANDIC, 1993, p. 374).

In The Love of Truth, Andic wrote on the “practice” of philosophy, which he regarded as contemplation “waiting for the light” (ANDIC, 1995, p. 354), “seen through the visible, beyond and yet within [meaning and truth of things] at all the time.”

In Summer Afternoon, this practice of philosophy became the practice of love, the vision of her, in the form of an orchid: “Have you never seen a woman wearing a garden of flowers in her hair and ribbons and on her arms and breast and in her jewelry and dancing all over her clothes, have you never glowed with their colors and swayed with their curves, never breathed their shimmering fragrance?” (ANDIC, 1999, p. 27).

“Could it happen, was it dangerous to look too deeply, could one pass a point of no return, caught and held and consumed not physically like a fly in a Venus flytrap, or not only that way, but more especially in your imagination and your heart by the beauty of it?” wrote Martin Andic (ANDIC, 1999, p. 24). On March 25, 2005, Martin Andic died. Towards the end of his life, he had moved to Ontario, Canada, to “start a new life” with his “new wife, also a philosopher,” (MITCHELL, p. 13) and reportedly was “working on a philosophic paper for a conference” when he died. “My books and my desk, my kitchen tools and my automobile, my very hands and feet and my eyes, no longer knew what to do with themselves. You may think that there are other flowers, and I could simply go on to the next. No. It was she, this single individual, who loved me and her, whom I loved. She could appear in more than one place and in many forms. But not anymore. Not that way.” (ANDIC, 1999, p. 27) Had he “looked too deeply, [and] past a point of no return?”

Summer Afternoon, therefore, is a culmination of a series of philosophical ideas, expressed in literary form, which Andic published over the course of a decade. Standing alone, it is a work of literature, but understood in the context of the author’s philosophical thought, it reveals itself, and inspires us to experience this: that pure reality of being, as the Martin Andic surely did, that one summer afternoon.


ANDIC, M. Confidence as a Work of Love. In: PATTISON, G. (ed.): Kierkegaard on Art and Communication. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 1992, p. 160–184.

ANDIC, M. Supernatural Justice and the Madness of Love. Cahiers Simone Weil: revue trimestrielle publiée par l’Association pour l’étude de la pensée de Simone Weil 17. 1993, p. 373−405.

ANDIC, M. The Love of Truth. Cahiers Simone Weil: revue trimestrielle publiée par l’Association pour l’étude de la pensée de Simone Weil 18. 1995, p. 389−417.

ANDIC, M. One Moment of Pure Attention is Worth all the Good Works in the World. Cahiers Simone Weil : revue trimestrielle publiée par l’Association pour l’étude de la pensée de Simone Weil 21. 1998, p. 347−368.

ANDIC, M. Summer Afternoon. Harvard Review 17, pleasures and pleasures pleasures and pleasur. 1999, p. 24–27.

MITCHELL, J. Martin F. Andic. In: MITCHELL J. M. (ed.) Musings Unlimited: The 50th Reunion Book of the Dartmouth College Class of 1960. Sheenboro: David L Prentice. 2010, p. 12–13.

Danslav Slavenskoj – absolvent Harvardovy univerzity. V současné době doktorand slavistiky na katedře rusistiky a východoevropských studií na Univerzitě Komenského v Bratislavě.


Mohlo by vás z této kategorie také zajímat