Hans Christian Andersen : a new life /

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Main Author: Andersen, Jens, 1955-
Format: Book
Published:Woodstock, N.Y. : Overlook Press, c2005.
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Review by Choice Review

First published in Denmark in 2003 and here skillfully translated, this monumental readable biography follows several others: Elias Bredsdorff's scholarly Hans Christian Andersen (1975); Wolfgang Lederer's The Kiss of the Snow Queen (1986), with its claim that Andersen was homosexual; and Jackie Wullschlager's eponymous life (2001), with its psychoanalytic analysis of Andersen's fairy tales. Jens Andersen (no relation to his subject) treats Andersen's sexual orientation at length, ultimately opting for an androgynous and "chaste" man. He contextualizes Andersen's male friendships in the mores of the Romanic era and quotes at length from Andersen's diaries, letters, and autobiography, The Fairy Tale of My Life (Eng. tr., 1955). Among the pleasures of reading this biography: detailed descriptions of Andersen's extensive travels and of his friendships with Kierkegaard, Liszt, Jenny Lind, Dickens, et al.; and the revelation that Andersen derived many of his fairy tales from obscure Danish legends and other sources (fairy tale scholarship has always described Andersen's as "original"). Dozens of color and black-and-white illustrations (including charming reproductions of Andersen's paper cutouts) enhance the volume, and an extensive bibliography provides a chronological listing of Andersen's works both in the original Danish and in the English translation. ^BSumming Up: Essential. All collections; all levels. E. R. Baer Gustavus Adolphus College

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Danish biographer Jens 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, in Hans Christian Andersen: A New Life, trans. by Tiina Nunnally. The biography opens with 14-year-old Hans's arrival in Copenhagen in September 1819, traces his short-lived stage career and his budding writing life, and suggests the ways in which he juxtaposed the facts with his fictions. A full review appears in Nonfiction Forecasts, p. 46. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Like a character in one of his own fairy tales, Hans Christian Andersen almost magically transformed himself from penniless street urchin to one of Europe's most celebrated authors. Here, a scholarly, penetrating biography proves that Andersen's life also had much of the Dickens novel in it. "What a mystery I am to myself!" Andersen once wrote. That mystery was in part self-created. The author spent a lifetime running from a childhood of squalor and hardship. (In his own autobiographies, he suppressed the fact that his aunt and grandmother were prostitutes and that his alcoholic mother died in a poorhouse hospital just a few miles from where the 28-year-old author was then living comfortably.) Best remembered for children's tales like "Thumbelina," "The Emperor's New Clothes," "The Little Mermaid" and "The Ugly Duckling," the prolific writer composed more than 30 volumes of literary works, including novels, plays and poetry. Now, a biographer intelligently examines these, along with Andersen's voluminous correspondence, to create a compelling portrait of both the author and of the world he traveled in. Andersen is revealed as a man who was self-centered, vain and emotionally needy, yet possessed of a childlike wonder and innocence. Tall, awkward and generally unattractive physically ("The Ugly Duckling," like much of his writing, was clearly autobiographical), Andersen was a confirmed bachelor who doggedly remained a virgin his entire life. That's not to say he didn't fall in love. He pursued many platonic affairs, more often with men than women. And his critics, including the Danish Soren Kierkegaard, were not above attacking Andersen for his "effeminate, unmanly" ways and for writings that often centered on platonic romance between men. Nevertheless, Andersen was an unstoppable force, both as author and celebrity. His wanderlust took him on 30 extended tours of Europe during his 70 years, and he was toasted everywhere. Thickly footnoted and thoughtful, this 200th birthday tribute to the great writer makes for rewarding if sometimes arduous reading. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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