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Hans Christian Andersen: The Life of a Storyteller [Anglais] [Relié]

Jackie Wullschlager

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Description de l'ouvrage

24 avril 2001
Others before him collected and retold folk stories and fairy tales, but Hans Christian Andersen was the first to create them himself. The universal familiarity of such stories as “The Ugly Duckling,” “The Little Mermaid” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes” shows how successful he was. By the time he reached middle age in the 1840s, in fact, he was probably the most famous writer in Europe, on familiar terms with kings and princes and eagerly read by a huge audience.
Yet the image of Andersen that has come down to us—that of the amiable, childlike storyteller—is bitterly at odds with the reality. In this groundbreaking biography, the first serious and comprehensive study of Andersen and his work to be undertaken in English, Jackie Wullschlager brings out the true nature of his life. Born the son of a dirt-poor cobbler and an illiterate washerwoman in a provincial Danish city, he indeed fought his way to fame in spite of his circumstances. But if his rise was astonishing, it was rarely happy. Lonely, sexually confused, vain, anxious and hypochondriacal, Andersen was driven by ambitions that, despite the power and brilliance of his work, prevented his ever being satisfied. A signal achievement of Wullschlager’s account is to show with great clarity how Andersen’s art—darker and more diverse than previously recognized—emerged directly from the complexities of his life.
Jackie Wullschlager has returned to all the original sources in Danish and German, and has followed Andersen’s footsteps across Europe. Her evocation of his world—Golden Age Copenhagen, the princely courts of Germany and the country villas of the Danish aristocracy, the languid warmth of southern Italy, which released his creativity—is unforgettable. She has recovered censored passages from his letters and journals that make plain how his deepest personal relationships, though often frustrated, were with other men. In her words, Andersen emerges in all his fascinating, cross-grained charm and gawkishness, his desperation and his occasional joy, as a writer—and a man—quite unlike any other.

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Revue de presse

"In my view it is the best book ever written about Hans Christian Andersen. If someone had asked me a couple of months ago which biography of Andersen was the best I would immodestly have said my own work, but today I would answer that the best book is the one written by Jackie Wullschlager. Not only is is a fuller and more comprehensive biography, but it is the first book ever to place Andersen in a contemporary European tradition and to measure him with a European yardstick." —Elias Bredsdorff, Emeritus Professor of Scandinavian Languages at Cambridge

"[T]his spring, Knopf will publish a biography by Jackie Wullschlager, a writer for the London Financial Times, which may add to the few reliable studies available in English, the most notable of which is Elias Bredsdorff's . . ." —Diana and Jeffrey Frank, The New Yorker

"Finely documented and insightful . . . Jackie Wullschlager's account . . . is a delight . . . her work gives off a classic sparkle. It will bring joy . . . "
-George Steiner, Observer

"Splendid . . . authoritative . . . gracefully written [and] meticulously referenced . . . will encourage many readers to revisit an author who undoubtedly deserves serious critical attention."
-Christina Hardyment, Financial Times

"Intensively researched and elegantly written."
-Humphrey Carpenter, Sunday Times

"Deals brilliantly with the whole man."
-Melanie McDonagh, Daily Telegraph

"Told with thoroughness and sympathy . . . [a life] as peculiar, fascinating and painful as any of his celebrated fairy tales."
-Rosemary Ashton, Sunday Telegraph

"An extraordinarily accomplished biography, both intellectually rigorous and emotionally wise . . . fascinating . . . Wullschlager wears her learning lightly but still we are left feeling we are in the hands of an expert guide."
-Kathryn Hughes, Literary Review

Biographie de l'auteur

Jackie Wullschlager is a literary critic and European arts correspondent for the Financial Times. Her biography of Victorian and Edwardian children’s writers, Inventing Wonderland, was published to acclaim in 1996. She lives in London with her husband and three small children.

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Amazon.com: 4.4 étoiles sur 5  11 commentaires
9 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Steadfast Little Storyteller 22 mai 2001
Par Quetzal - Publié sur Amazon.com
Of course, you are never to old to enjoy a good fairy tale. But maybe it is also true that you are never really old enough to understand all its subtle layers of meaning. Behind the simple story read to a child, there are always enough hidden allusions, jokes and adult tragedies to last a lifetime of re-reading. And when the fairy tales have been created by a modern author such as Hans Christian Andersen, they may even contain an entire autobiography. Andersen published several rather rosy-coloured "official" accounts of his life, with sugar-sweet titles like "The Fairy Tale of My Life". But as Jacky Wullschlager shows in this moving biography, it was only in his stories that he revealed his true fears, hopes and obsessions. The great pleasure of Wullschlager's book is that it helps us to rediscover the familiar cast of fairy tale characters; to recognize Andersen's struggle from extreme poverty in the "Ugly Duckling", his flirtation with nobility in the king-loving "Nightingale" and his almost fin-de-siècle obsession with sex and death in the "Snow Queen" or the "Ice Maiden". It gives an added biographical depth to characters that have fascinated readers ever since Andersen first created them. And as the story goes, "if they haven't stopped fascinating, they're fascinating still."
6 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Reach of a Master storyteller 20 mai 2001
Par J.D. - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
From childhood the stories of Hans Christian Anderson always brought hope and encouragement to a boy trying to fit in despite leg braces and crutches. Later as a parent my appreciation for his insight and depth grew as I read his stories to my children. I found myself wanting to know who was this man and how had he been influenced to write about these flawed characters who always reacted to their circumstances with courage and dignity. Wullschlager's masterful biography does a good job of giving us an understanding of Anderson and his stories. Unlike the person portrayed in the film by Danny Kaye, Anderson experienced much of the alienation and abuse that his characters did. This biography shows that Anderson was much like the heros in his stories, flawed, but always hopeful. Like the hero in my favorite Anderson story, "The Steadfast Tin Soldier", he understood that although he was different, he would always believe that he would make a difference.
8 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Good biography of a flawed subject 27 novembre 2001
Par Matthew Spady - Publié sur Amazon.com
Although this is a highly readable, extremely informative biography, the death of my Hollywood-derived impressions of Hans Christian Anderson, as personified by Danny Kaye, was a tortured one.
As Wullschlager clearly illustrates, Anderson was not a very likeable character. Easily wounded and quick to take offense (even where it was unwarranted), strangely self-assured to the point of embarrassing those around him with his pomposity and silliness (if not himself), he seems to have been almost incapable of giving the same friendship that he demanded of others. Even so, Wullschlager succeeds in making him sympathetic. Rather than try to make excuses for his behavior, she just lays out the facts and presents him as he was. She is particularly effective when she associates events in Anderson's life with the fairy tales and repeating literary themes they inspired.
That Anderson was able to transform his inner demons into timeless, allegorical tales that are both touching and uplifting is remarkable. That he was able to do so after having overcome seemingly insurmountable hurdles in his background and early education marks him for the genius he was-warts and all.
This is a very good biography of an unusual, but brilliant, story-teller.
8 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Me thinks the Author doth Obsess too much. 28 mars 2006
Par Mark Twain - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
I picked up this book looking to get some insight into the mind of Hans Christian Andersen, and to some extent I did, but in an almost disturbing way, I got a stronger sense of the biographer herself.

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.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Hans Christian Andersen 30 octobre 2007
Par Edward H. Christ - Publié sur Amazon.com
Very interesting book and a good read--having heard of Andersen most of my life, it was good to read about him. The book lays to rest the image of Andersen created by Danny Kaye in the (albiet interesting) misleading musical version of Hans Christian's life. The book chronicles the master storyteller's incredible ambition and drive to make something of himself, despite his poverty-stricten background, and thoroughly examines the demons (both physical and psychological) that encompassed his life.
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