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Monday, May 21, 2001

The Uses of Enchantment
In ''The Little Mermaid,'' Hans Christian Andersen suggests that immortality can serve as a substitute, however unsatisfactory, for human love. The story is clearly an allegory for his own life, for the unloved Andersen, more than 125 years after his death, can lay as good a claim as anyone to artistic immortality. At a time when children's stories were exclusively moral and didactic, he revolutionized the genre by infusing it with the humor, anarchy and sorrow of great literature. He expressed the most painful and rawest emotions with extraordinary aesthetic control; the results rivaled anything produced by the great Romantic writers who were his contemporaries. In his simple, unpretentious way he told us as much about the human condition (think of ''The Emperor's New Clothes,'' ''The Snow Queen,'' ''The Fir Tree'') as any of the world's writers and philosophers.
The New York Times Book Review
posted by Marco Graziosi 2:22 PM

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