Published to great acclaim in 1835, Hans Christian Andersen’s debut novel, The Improvisatore, initially eclipsed his fairy tales, which first appeared in the same year. This first English translation since the 1840s, by Frank Hugus, captures the brilliance and brio, the sweep and the nuance that made The Improvisatore one of Hans Christian Andersen’s most widely read and best loved works.

Andersen, the captivating teller of enchanted tales, is very much in evidence in this classic Bildungsroman inspired by his travels in Italy earlier in the decade. The novel’s hero, Antonio—much like Andersen himself—rises from impoverished beginnings to become a successful artist, at every turn learning charming and often alarming lessons in the ways of the world. Adopted by a nobleman, smitten with an opera singer, challenged to a duel, captured by bandits, beset by a temptress, Antonio follows a dizzying itinerary on his path to enlightenment and, perhaps, happiness. Along the way he experiences the delights of Italian culture and nature so clearly and deeply absorbed by his peripatetic author.

Hugus joins us on September 18 for a discussion on the work.

Following the discussion, copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing.

About the Author

Frank Hugus is a Professor of German and Scandinavian Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  He has taught a wide variety of courses, from Old Norse to modern Scandinavian literature to Hans Christian Andersen.  Hugus has published numerous articles on 19th and 20th century Danish literature, with a focus on Hans Christian Andersen, and has written on medieval Icelandic literature.

In addition to his recently published translation of Andersen’s The Improvisatore, Hugus has translated three novels by the Danish author and painter Hans Scherfig (1905-79): Stolen Spring (1986), The Missing Bureaucrat (1988), and Idealists, (1991), as well as many short stories by contemporary Danish authors.



Image courtesy Frank Hugus; Book Jacket courtesy University of Minnesota Press

TUE—September 18—7 PM, free