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On a new translation of Hans Christian Andersen


It was a surprise Christmas present: 'Fairy Tales' by Hans Christian Andersen, in a new English translation (the best yet, according to Harold Bloom) commissioned for the Penguin Classics series.
Until I read it last week, I'd always thought that Andersen, like other well-known tellers of fairy stories, such as Charles Perrault, the Grimm brothers, or, closer to home, the Catalan folklorist Joan Amades, had limited himself to the transcription of existing folk tales. On the contrary, he invented plenty more off his own bat, including some that have become commonplace myths today, such as 'The Ugly Duckling'. According to his biographer Jackie Wallschlager, this creative dabbling with popular lore constituted a major literary breakthrough, and not just for future kiddies' authors.
Reading this highly faithful translation, which puts paid to decades of insipid, flowery versions put out not only in English but also in German (and from these languages into most others), it is easy to see why Wallschlager is so enthusiastic. Andersen managed to conjure up an imaginative world as cleanly-honed, sharply-coloured and all-embracing as that of any classic legend you care to mention. What's more, when reading these stories, with their talking teapots and queens with ice for flesh, far from slipping back into childhood, I found myself dwelling compulsively on the time-honoured universals; you know the ones (Woody Allen even spoofed them in a film): love and death. In short, this is one wonderful book. If anyone gets hold of a copy after reading this article and finds it disappointing, they should write to this paper and I personally will send them a teapot that can't talk.

- Textos i contingut: Matthew Tree - Disseny i programació: Nac -