HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN: A New Life

Jens Andersen, Author, Tina Nunally, Translator, Tiina Nunnally, Translator , trans. from the Danish by Tiina Nunnally. Overlook $35 (608p) ISBN 978-1-58567-642-2

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. (May)

Reviewed on: 03/21/2005
Release date: 05/01/2005
Discover what to read next
TIP SHEET
MORE BOOKS YOU'D LIKE
X
X