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Summaries of papers from previous international HCA conferences
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Summaries of papers from previous international HCA conferences

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Summary of Merete Kjøller:

"Et italiensk Andersen-potpourri".

This paper has been published in Andersen og Verden, Odense 1993.

Hans Christian Andersen and Italy

Merete Kjøller

(summary for pages 353-61)

This paper is a sort of potpourri on the reception of H. C. Andersen's works in Italy. The author focuses on the various translations, editions and printings and the success Andersen's work has acquired among the Italian public. Reference is made to the reviews and articles on Andersen written by internationally recognized figures of Italian culture such as Natalia Ginzburg, Claudio Magris, and the Nobel prize-winner, Eugenio Montale. It was indeed Montale who, in 1954, objected to the supposedly proverbial simplicity of Andersen's fairy-tales and argued that many of them are in fact quite complex and actually more appropriate for adult than for young readers.

Mention is also made of the theatrical adaptations of the fairy-tales which have been performed in Italy, as well as other events and cultural contexts with which the writer's name is connected.

In the '20s and '30s both "The Little Mermaid" and "The Little Match Seller" were dramatized and set to music. Many of Andersen's fairy tales have been adapted for the theatre but, since these adaptations are generally designed for school audiences, they lie outside the scope of a conference centred on Andersen as a writer for adults. Not all adaptations for the stage have been designed for children, however. One exception is a mime performance of "The Nightingale" and "The Emperor's New Clothes", with music by Hans Werner Henze and Alexandre Tansmann respectively, staged in 1959 at the Venice Biennale. Another is the performance based on five of Andersen's best known fairy-tales, which ran at the Piccolo Teatro in Milan in the 1980-81 season. This adaptation was created, written and performed by Tino Schirinzi.

The author also takes into account Italo Calvino's 1983 collection of 19th-century tales of the fantastic, which includes "The Shadow", and another collection of fairy tales, published in 1978, which deals with the theme of power and includes "The Emperor's New Clothes".

It was not until 1954 that the first philologically and stylistically accurate version of the fairy tales was published in Italian translation. The work was carried out by two Andersen specialists, and the edition was targeted at adult readers. This translation enjoyed considerable success and was reprinted in numerous editions, with a varying number of selections from the 107 fairy tales translated. Numerous translations have been available to Italian readers since the last century, but these are generally abridged or, at best, reworked versions and, more often than not, are not even translated from the original; in any case, they have all been directed at young readers. In fact, although Andersen is quite well known in Italy, he still bears the label of a writer of children's fairy tales, an image which persists stubbornly despite the fact that a number of Andersen's works written for adults have been translated into Italian. Many of these publications have come out in the last twenty years and have been widely reviewed and very well received by critics. Andersen's works written for adults and published in Italian translation include: Only a Fiddler (1879);Picture Book without Pictures (1888); The Improvisatore (1931); The Tale of My Life (1959); a new translation of The Improvisatore (1974); O.T. (1975); The Autobiography written in 1832 (1977); Journey on Foot (1987); and A Poet's Bazaar (1991). Christine's Picture Book was published in Italy in 1984.

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