- Paperback: 506 pages
- Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; New edition edition (June 15, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226917479
- ISBN-13: 978-0226917474
- Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,405,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Hans Christian Andersen: The Life of a Storyteller New edition Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Andersen (1805-1875) and his work receive perceptive and uncondescending treatment from Financial Times arts critic Wullschlager (Inventing Wonderland). In his autobiographies (and autobiographical novels), Andersen portrayed his life as a Danish Horatio Alger story, "the poor shoemaker and washerwoman's son" who rose to international prominence through a talent for storytelling. While that summary is accurate enough in itself, that talent for storytelling led him to embellish some details, such as family stories about aristocratic connections, while obscuring others, particularly his unrequited attachments to the Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind and a series of stern and serious Copenhagen gentlemen. Gauche and gawky, self-absorbed and self-pitying, Andersen nonetheless had his own personal charm and could hold audiences spellbound at his readings. As one of the first Danish writers with an international reputation, he parlayed his fame into visits with assorted German princes and the likes of Franz Liszt and Charles Dickens. Wullschlager gives a colorful travelogue of his restless journeys in Italy, France and England and contrasts them with his upbringing and adulthood in the parochial Denmark, which, as Wullschlager notes, felt stifling to his romantic temperament. Yet he could work only in his homeland and needed its praise to the end of his life. That praise usually was for him as a children's author, but Wullschlager also reads into the adult themes and artistry of The Little Mermaid and The Snow Queen, as well as Andersens's adult novels, giving him full credit as a real, adult person. 24 pages of photos. (May 3)Forecast: Favorable reviews might convince literary readers that the life of an author of fairy tales is worth their time.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Danish author Hans Christian Andersen was one of the greatest fairy-tale writers of all time, with stories like "The Ugly Duckling," "The Emperor's New Clothes," and "The Tin Soldier" defining him as an all-time great in the world of children's literature. Wullschlager, a literary critic and European arts correspondent for the Financial Times, has written the first major biography of this consummate storyteller. She shatters what has become the standard image of the author as a "sweet-natured, pathetic entertainer." In fact, Andersen lived a difficult life and never found real satisfaction with his success. Wullschlager succeeds brilliantly at portraying Andersen's inner mind and uncovering his hopes and fears and details the historical context that served to produce such a grand body of literature. Relying on letters, diaries, and original German and Danish accounts, Wullschlager has written a biography that will be a standard study for years to come. Recommended for all libraries. Ron Ratliff, Kansas State Univ., Manhattan
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
The later is the weakest, because the author is hesitant to reveal too much about Andersen's personal life. Being Danish, he cannot ruffle too many feathers, since he still has to live with the descendants of these people! The other two are British...
The Wullschlager biography takes a Freudian approach -- quite revealing as to Andersen's sex life, and ties in the major events of his life to his fairy tales and stories. It does an excellent job in both those areas. The storyteller's friend!
However, the most revealing of the three is the Prince -- it takes over where the Wullschlager left off. Andersen's homosexuality is a given, with the "politics" of oppression and repression well expressed. But it also presents the main events of his life in a brand new light: Andersen may not have been Mr and Mrs Andersen's little boy! A royal bastard, probably the son of the Crown Prince who later became king of Denmark. This sheds a whole new light on the "hidden" meaning of such masterpieces of Andersen's as THE UGLY DUCKLING!
So please avoid the Andersen, read the Wullschlager first, then compare with the Prince -- it will be a thrilling experience in biography reading, I promise you!
The reader of this book will get to know Andersen's family's origins (although not enough), his life as a child (again, not enough), the places he lived, those he knew and a lot about what they might have thought of him. There is a minor amount of information given about why or when Andersen wrote certain books or stories -- and this is where the book falls tragically short.
Instead of delving into the mind of Andersen or the world that created him, the readers should prepare themselves for page after page of the author's fixation with how clumsy Andersen's behavior was with colleagues and friends and her conclusions about Andersen's sex life. Some of this might even be true, but at times the stories are presented just to titillate instead of lending insight with any genuine caring. To a larger degree, I think the author missed the point of Andersen's dilemma entirely.
The issue for Andersen might be that he was socially and sexually immature -- for his age and at any age -- whether as a teenager or as an adult. And that he had deeper issues of inferiority that could have stemmed from a number of sources, the least of which his issues with being born into a lower class of society than he might have liked. Between the lines of the stories of his life, it seems pretty clear that Andersen did not have enough self-worth to have more conventional or even reciprocal friendships. The author draws this conclusion briefly later in the book but you're going to have to sit through a lot of saucy and editorialized excerpts of his letters. For me, the biographer's point seemed labored, like she enjoyed it too much.
Additionally it should be noted (even though the author doesn't draw this conclusion in her book) that it's a fairly widely held opinion that Andersen probably suffered from Aspergers Syndrome, a high functioning form of autism that leaves the individual socially un-evolved while being highly skilled at more intellectual pursuits. Setting up one mocking scenario after scenario, as the author does in this book, might be one way of relaying the facts but in the end the author comes across as no better than the stories she tells of the haughty girls who mocked Andersen throughout his life. It's like picking on a handicapped child. Cruel; and leads the reader nowhere.
I guess what I'm trying to get at is I would have preferred the author spent more time on how Andersen's environment shaped him, how he spent his day, how he wrote his stories, where he drew his inspiration, how his writings altered other writing of the day, etc. The sexual speculation and the repeated focus on the negative effects of his ego raising behavior -- were not so interesting and come across as lacking any useful insight into Andersen or her having any meaningful literary ability.
As a matter of respect for Andersen's body of work, and more to the point, to be taken seriously as a biographer, the author might have tried to present a vision of Andersen that delves beyond the tawdry and superficial.