Hans Christian Andersen


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European Witness

Paul Binding

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A new account of the brilliant and prolific Danish writer whose works captivated readers across Europe

Rarely does an American or European child grow up without an introduction to Hans Christian Andersen’s "The Ugly Duckling," "The Princess and the Pea," or "Thumbelina." Andersen began publishing his fairy tales in 1835, and they brought him almost immediate acclaim among Danish and German readers, followed quickly by the French, Swedes, Swiss, Norwegians, British, and Americans. Ultimately he wrote more than 150 tales. And yet, Paul Binding contends in this incisive book, Andersen cannot be confined to the category of writings for children. His work stands at the very heart of mainstream European literature.
The author considers the entire scope of Andersen’s prose, from his juvenilia to his very last story. He shows that Andersen’s numerous novels, travelogues, autobiographies, and even his fairy tales (notably addressed not to children but to adults) earned a vast audience because they distilled the satisfactions, tensions, hopes, and fears of Europeans as their continent emerged from the Napoleonic Wars. The book sheds new light on Andersen as an intellectual, his rise to international stardom, and his connections with other eminent European writers. It also pays tribute to Andersen’s enlightened values—values that ensure the continuing appeal of his works.

Paul Binding is a leading British literary critic and novelist and a renowned expert in Scandinavian literature. Among his books are studies of Ibsen, Lorca, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Eudora Welty. He lives in Shropshire, UK.
'Paul Binding's deep knowledge of Scandinavian literature has produced an important reassessment of Andersen's significance that reaches far beyond fairy-tale. This is a thoroughly readable, and often touching, book.' - Sue Prideaux, author of Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream
‘This is the first and only book in English that discusses a large part of Hans Christian Andersen’s oeuvre and sets it within a framework of European literature and nineteenth-century history. Paul Binding writes with an exceptional feeling for Andersen’s psychology and art. It is an intense meeting between two artistic dispositions, Andersen’s and Binding’s, and rises above most current biographical literature on the subject.’ – Johan de Mylius, co-author of Hans Christian Andersen: Between Children’s Literature and Adult Literature
'Paul Binding's meticulous study is the first to deal with Andersen's extensive European travels. Binding demonstrates that Andersen was a "pre-modernist" and very receptive to the immense technological and social changes that he experienced. To understand Andersen, Binding claims, one must carefully analyse how all his personal experiences worked themselves into his tales, plays, novels and poetry. Indeed, Binding's book is a compassionate literary biography of one of the more complex witnesses of the nineteenth century, and how Andersen's travels invigorated his art.' - Jack Zipes, author of The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of a Genre

‘Both a novelist and probably our most distinguished writer on Scandinavian literature and culture, Binding has produced his best work to date in this study, and I recommend it to all who are interested in the creative process, the Nordic imagination and Anderson himself.’—Amanda Craig, Literary Review

‘Binding, as a scholar of English and Scandinavian literature, is uniquely placed to set Anderson’s work in its wider context.’—Juliet Townsend, The Spectator

'Binding has a deep insight'—Suzi Feay, The Guardian

"A satisfyingly interior portrait [built] around close readings of Andersen’s immense body of work."—New Yorker

‘His study offers detailed commentaries on his subject’s novels, travel writings and autobiographies alongside the more familiar stories, in a sustained attempt to reclaim Anderson’s work for grown-ups.’—Dinah Birch, TLS

“In his perceptive analysis, Binding discusses everything from the religious implications of Andersen’s fairy tales to elements of Nordic mythology found in Andersen’s writings. The connections, carefully researched and expertly articulated, between Andersen’s work and the ideas by which he was influenced make this volume worthwhile.”—Toni Thibodeaux, The Lion and the Unicorn
ISBN: 9780300169232
Publication Date: June 24, 2014
496 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4