Firstly, apologies for the prolonged absence of entries – I went to London for a few days and had no internet access. But on the other hand, I got to hang out in my favourite book shop and read, which is always a highlight of London! More on that tomorrow.
I finished Journey In Blue, which is the novel I mentioned in my last post about Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales. It is a fictionalsied autobiographical novel about Andersen’s life, told through snapshots of memory as Andersen lies on his deathbed and morphine sends his thoughts drifting through time. Reminiscences are punctured by brief moments of decreasing lucidity as his grip on reality slips away and Death stalks his dreams.
This book is fantastic in so many ways – stylistically, it is frequently one of the best examples of stream of consciousness writing I’ve read. Dalager suceeds utterly in painting a portrait of Andersen and all his neuroses and insecurities, but where others have condemned Andersen as a boring personality, Dalager takes us inside Andersen’s thoughts so we can empathise with him and see the world through his eyes. In his afterword, Dalager emphasises that in his opinion, “poetic genius corresponds to a complex, rich and enthralling personality”, accounting for his need to represent Andersen in a different light to that in which his critics cast him, redressing the balance where Andersen himself could not. Dalager adds that where appropriate, he has used Andersen’s own words; at other times, he has paraphrased or rewritten some of his stories, underlining themes in his fairytales to themes in Andersen’s own life – unrecognised beauty, unfair persecution, the differences between poor and rich. Anyone who enjoys Andersen’s fairytales will find this beautifully written book an invaluable companion for enriching and enhancing the stories, and even if you aren’t a fairytales fan, I would still recommend this as an exceptional portrait of an enduring artist.
Along with reading about Andersen’s life, I’ve been rereading some of his fairytales (my last post reflected my first initial foray into them since childhood, and my horrified reaction), and I hope to do more reading and research into the fairytale genre over the next couple of weeks, so look out for that post. Being able to link Andersen’s writings to his own feelings at different times in his life has enabled me to see more in them already, and I’ve been given some names to look up and some things to think about relating to the fairytale genre so I’m looking forward to revisiting more of them. As Andersen himself said, his fairytales are not just for children. Adults will see more in his works than a child can.
Links and random trivia:
– A $12.5m theme park based on Andersen’s tales and life will open in Shanghai by the end of 2006. Multi-media games as well as all kinds of cultural contests related to the fairytales will reportedly be available to visitors. He was chosen as the star of the park because he is a “nice, hardworking person who was not afraid of poverty”, Shanghai Gujin Investment general manager Zhai Shiqiang was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.
From this Wikipedia entry on Andersen.
– The Guardian review by Michael Faber from last year