Andersen, Jens 1955–

views updated

Andersen, Jens 1955–

PERSONAL: Born 1955.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Gyldendal, Klareboderne 3, 1001 Copenhagen K, Denmark.

CAREER: Writer and literary scholar.


Standpunkter: 22 Danske Forfattere Tilkendegiver deres Holdning til Tidens Spørgsmal (essays), Aschehoug (Copenhagen, Denmark), 1988.

Thit: Den Sidste Valkyrie, GEC Gad (Copenhagen, Denmark), 1990.

Jeg Lenges: Fra Thit Jensen's Dagbøger, 1891–1927, GEC Gad (Copenhagen, Denmark), 1991.

Dansende Stjerne: En Bog om Tom Kristensen, Gyldendal (Copenhagen, Denmark), 1993.

Til Døden os Skiller: Et Portræt af Tove Ditlevsen, Gyldendal (Copenhagen, Denmark), 1997.

Vildmanden: Sandemose og Animalismen i Mellemkrigstidens Litteratur, Gyldendal (Copenhagen, Denmark), 1998.

H.C. Andersens Glemte Eventyr, Gyldendal (Copenhagen, Denmark), 2000.

Andersen: En Biografi, Gyldendal (Copenhagen, Denmark), 2003, translation by Tina Nunnally published as Hans Christian Andersen: A New Life, Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 2005.

SIDELIGHTS: Danish biographer, editor, and essayist Jens Andersen's first book published in the United States is Hans Christian Andersen: A New Life, a translation of Andersen: En Biografi. "In this major work," explained Mikkel Stiernberg on the Hans Christian Andersen 2005 Web site, "Jens Andersen grapples not only with Andersen's famous fairytales but also with his novels, short stories, dramas, poems, prose sketches, tales, travel books and autobiographies as well." Andersen, who is no relation to Hans Christian, spent four years researching his subject and his biography provides a more comprehensive, and in some ways darker, portrait of a man often seen as simple and gentle and childlike.

As others have noted, Hans Christian Andersen was born into poverty, but Jens provides a much grimmer portrait of the brutality that surrounded the noted writer and the difficulties that might well have destroyed a less self-confident young man. But Hans Christian seemed to always have the gift of self-promotion and the determination to be noticed. He first tried to achieve fame as an actor and dancer, and although he was not really successful in either profession, he did attract the benevolent attention of wealthy patrons. He also took a serious interest in philosophy, as Jens Andersen notes, and throughout much of his life maintained a rivalry with famed existentialist philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. The biographer also discusses the role of travel, and travel writing in Andersen's life, noting that the writer undertook no less than thirty extended tours of Europe. In addition, Jens Andersen provides a comprehensive and carefully nuanced treatment of his subject's famously enigmatic sexuality. He concludes that the self-proclaimed virgin seemed to have stronger attractions to men than women, despite a famous relationship with singer Jenny Lind, but that these remained strong Platonic love affairs rather than sexual relationships.

Reviewers generally commended the thoroughness of the new biography. As a Kirkus Reviews critic concluded, "Thickly footnoted and thoughtful, this 200th birthday tribute to the great writer makes for rewarding if sometimes arduous reading." Library Journal reviewer Ron Ratliff felt that "readers both familiar and unfamiliar with Andersen should find this fascinating biography a gold mine of information and insight into his genius." Although some readers might find it "overlong and excessively detailed," commented Stefan Beck in New Criterion, the biography's "analysis of the critical debate sparked by Andersen's tales, paired with insights into his history and method, make it a valuable guide for anyone who would return to the dying art of children's literature the beautiful eccentricity of its infancy." For Niels Ingwersen, writing in Scandinavian Studies, "Jens Andersen's biography is highly commendable; it is a must for any Andersen teacher or scholar. No one has, so far, penetrated Andersen's life with more skill, tenacity, and tolerance. The outcome is a remarkable and most readable book: perceptive, authoritative, inquisitive, and whimsical, without ever stooping to pontification."



Christian Science Monitor, May 10, 2005, Lucie Lehmann-Barclay, "Celebrating Denmark's Gift to the Imagination," p. 15.

Houston Chronicle, May 27, 2005, Nora Seton, "Life Was No Fairy Tale: The Strange, Mean World of Hans Christian Andersen."

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2005, review of Hans Christian Andersen: A New Life, p. 324.

Library Journal, April 15, 2005, Ron Ratliff, review of Hans Christian Andersen, p. 86.

New Criterion, May, 2005, Stefan Beck, "The Elfin Mind," p. 88.

Publishers Weekly, March 21, 2005, review of Hans Christian Andersen, p. 47.

Skandinavian Studies, winter, 2004, Niels Ingwersen, "How Enigmatic Is Hans Christian Andersen?," p. 535.

Sunday Times (London, England), May 22, 2005, John Carey, review of Hans Christian Andersen.

Telegraph (London, England), May 6, 2005, Anne Chisholm, review of Hans Christian Andersen.


Hans Christian Andersen 2005 Web site, (November 26, 2003), Mikkel Stjernberg, "New Biography on Hans Christian Andersen."

About this article

Andersen, Jens 1955–

Updated About content Print Article