The first half of this introduction to Qoheleth reads the book as a record of ideas mulled over by a dandy at a series of salons. While scholars have attempted to impose order on the book’s structure and classify it according to genres, I formulate an understanding of the speaker’s lively wisdom from the extraneous voices of John Galsworthy, Beau Brummell and Oscar Wilde. Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus (The Tailor Retailored) serves as a model of fictional philosophy that allows us to appreciate Qoheleth’s existential concerns as both ironic and serious. I keep references to biblical commentaries at bay and create a typology within which the biblical sage comes to life as a social creature of comfort. Part II will draw a specific parallel between the book’s first chapter and a collage by the conceptual dandy Marcel Duchamp. For the moment Qoheleth’s charms are given a fresh face via creative interdisciplinary comparison.
The second half of my introduction to Qoheleth pastes a ‘readymade’ gambler’s bond by Marcel Duchamp alongside the book’s opening chapter. The French dandy’s mock self-portrait highlights the complexities of the biblical Assembler’s name/title, his mischievous ploys in the game of wisdom, the metaphoric significance of the word hebel, and the spinning sensation rendered in reading the text. Constructing a readymade of Qoheleth as Duchamp, I play roulette with the first chapter, following its disconcerting poetics through to the next and retouching the Catalogue of Times with a comic cadence.