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Hans Christian Andersenby Jens Andersen
"200 years after his birth, Andersen, with his strange, sad life and the work he is best known for — his magnificent fairy tales — is finally allowed to sit with the grown-ups. Danish critic Jens Andersen (no relation to HCA) has given us Hans Christian Andersen: A New Life, which dwarfs all previous works on the subject." Allen Barra, Salon.com (read the entire Salon.com review)
Synopses & Reviews
Hans Christian Andersen was a storyteller for children of all ages, but he was more than that. He was a critical journalist with great enthusiasm for science, an existential thinker, an observant travel book writer, a passionate novelist, a deft paper cut-out artist, a neurotic hypochondriac, and a man with intense but frustrated sexual desires. He was a man with demons, dreams, yearnings and visions — a man of flesh and blood. This startling and immensely readable, definitive new biography by Danish scholar Jens Andersen is essential to a full understanding of the man whose writing has influenced the lives of readers young and old for centuries.
Delving deep into archives and correspondence, Jens Andersen sheds brilliant new light on Hans Christian Andersen's writings — the 156 published fairy tales, as well as the novels, short stories, dramas, poetry, and non-fiction — and on the writer whose own life had many aspects of the fairytale. Like some of the memorable characters he created, Andersen grew up in miserable and impoverished circumstances; as an adult he took steps to keep what he called his 'common' background well hidden. He propagated myths about his life and family, partially to create a romantic distance to his true background, as mirrored in his last name — but in this new biography, translated by the PEN-award-winning, Tiina Nunnally, Jens Andersen uncovers much about this man that has never been revealed before.
"Danish biographer Andersen (no relation to his subject) provides a fascinating backdrop for the life of the acclaimed fairy tale writer on the 200th anniversary of his birth. The biography opens with 14-year-old Hans's arrival in Copenhagen and demonstrates how the teen's determination to break onto the stage, coupled with a prevailing sense of philanthropy among the wealthy, resulted in unique opportunities for the boy from Odense. His brilliant strategy to get one of his plays produced at the Royal Theater offers deep insight into his character. Throughout, Andersen deftly juxtaposes the facts with Hans's rewriting of his life in his autobiography, The Fairy Tale of My Life. Perhaps most provocatively, Andersen makes the case that Hans was shaped by the events and ideas of his era; he refers to the writer's rivalry with Kierkegaard and, coincidentally, the 'elucidating light' that the philosopher's views about love cast on Hans's 'preferred role' as 'the chaste lover.' The biographer reveals in some detail the unusual relationship between Hans and Edvard Collin as well as other platonic relationships with both men and women, describing the era's tolerant approach to love between the sexes. Some readers may be frustrated by the biographer's tendency to raise issues and then put off further exploration to a later chapter. But most will be caught up in this smoothly translated, accessible evaluation of a budding genius placed in the context of his time." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Readers both familiar and unfamiliar with Andersen should find this fascinating biography a gold mine of information and insight into his genius." Library Journal
"Thickly footnoted and thoughtful, this 200th birthday tribute to the great writer makes for rewarding if sometimes arduous reading." Kirkus Reviews
"A narrative that captures [the reader's] attention and unleashes the imagination. More extensively than any of his predecessors, Jens Andersen describes Hans Christian Andersen's story of good fortune... Brilliantly done." Berlingske Tidende
"An overwhelming and unbelievable accomplishment. Never have so many facts about Hans Christian Andersen been assembled in one place. And never have those facts been so well presented...[Jens Andersen] is blessed with a rare talent for writing." Politiken
"A magnificent achievement by Jens Andersen. It leaves the reader with a Hans Christian Andersen who is closer, larger, and even more alive, but at the same time no less enigmatic. It is truly in a class by itself. A new, captivating, and exhaustive portrait of Hans Christian Andersen — on a grand scale — has now seen the light of day." Weekendavisen
About the Author
Jens Andersen has a master's degree in Danish literature and is a literary critic and the author of several major biographies of Danish writers. He received wide acclaim for this biography.
Tiina Nunnally is the award-winning translator of Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg, and The Royal Physician's Visit by Per Olov Enquist. She is currently at work on new translations of tales by Hans Christian Andersen, some of which will be published by Viking in 2005.
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