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"Ud maate jeg": Andersen's Fodreise as Transgressive Space

From: Scandinavian Studies
Volume 85, Number 1, Spring 2013
pp. 39-66 | 10.1353/scd.2013.0000

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

The title of Hans Christian Andersen's first novel is, as is well known, something of a joke. The rather lengthy title—Fodreise fra Holmens Canal til Østpynten af Amager i Aarene 1828 og 1829 (A Walking Tour from Holmen's Canal to the East Point of Amager in the Years 1828 to 1829)—seems to promise the description of a trip, a walking tour, of some substantial extent and duration. The citizens of Copenhagen would know, however, that the distance between the point of departure, the poet's apartment near Holmen's Canal, and the conclusion of the journey on Amager is less than three kilometers, hardly a "tour" in the conventional sense. The subtitle of the book also suggests that the journey takes place over the course of approximately two years. The actual duration of the journey, however, is in fact only a few hours; the young poet begins his late night stroll during the last hours of 31 December 1828 and ends his journey in the early hours of 1 January 1829. Andersen's title thus playfully ironizes both space and time, the twin Kantian indispensable forms of cognition, by radically contracting them to comic effect. The title, however, is not merely a joke or a witty play on Copenhagen geography for those in the know. This interest in time and space announced in the title is explicitly thematized in the novel as the fundamental condition that the poet must creatively re-imagine and remake if he is to become an author in his own right and take his desired place among Copenhagen's acknowledged literati. Hence, space and its transformation into place is understood to be the poetic project of the novel, the task the poet-protagonist sets for himself.

First published in 1828 shortly after Andersen finished his student exams, the novel's initial reception was quite positive, and it quickly appeared in two subsequent editions. J.L. Heiberg himself endorsed the book in an early review and had even published parts of it in the literary magazine Kjøbenhavns flyvende Post prior to its publication in its entirety. Despite its initial positive reception, Fodreise has by and large come to be regarded as an immature work that does not belong among Andersen's novels, but rather among what are sometimes termed "udkast" (rough drafts, sketches, unfinished works). By Andersen's own admission the novel is a strange one, a "humoristisk underlig Bog ... min Lyst til at lege med Alt, spotte i Taarer over mine egne Følelser, phantastisk og broget, et heelt Tapete" (2003, 220) [humorous, strange book, my wish to play with everything, mocking my own feelings, fantastical and colorful, a quilted patchwork]. This same sentiment is already acknowledged by the text when a critic, disguised as a sea monster, prevents the poet from sailing to Saltholm. The mer-critic says of the book that "Deres hele Reise ... er et Chaos af forvirrede Ideer, opkogte Reminiscenser og i det høieste et mislykket Eventyr" (255) [Your entire trip is a chaotic mess of confused ideas, half-baked reminiscences and simply an aborted fairytale].

Ib Johansen, however, notes that critical interest in Fodreise has increased in recent years, often for many of the same reasons it was rejected by earlier generations of scholars. If the perception has been that the novel is a bewildering patchwork of numerous literary references, allusions, and styles, critics have now turned attention to its sophisticated problematizing of narrator positions, its self-interruptions and complex narratological structure (Johansen 453). If the novel appears to be experimental and even unfinished, critics have emphasized its break with the conventional literary styles of the period as well as its curious literary devices all serving to make for the more contemporary critic a challenging and complex work rather than simply a youthful attempt. The relationship between the biographical Andersen and the anonymous poet protagonist of the novel has, furthermore, provoked interest in the way the novel interrogates the tensions between fiction and reality, between the representation of the real world and representation itself. Andersen's novel also anticipates many of the subjects of his later work: the nature and purpose of art, anxieties about...



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