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The Improvisatore

A Novel of Italy

2018
Author:

Hans Christian Andersen
Translated by Frank Hugus

The Improvisatore

A semi-autobiographical novel inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s travels in Italy—and one of the author’s best-known works in his native Denmark

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 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.

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. 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—from the inescapable power of some of the world’s most enduring paintings and sculptures to the drama of an erupting Mount Vesuvius and the rampages of wild buffalo on the Roman campagna, all in the shadow of classical mythology and in the company of characters from every level of Italian society: beggar, brigand, priest, and poet.

This first English translation since the 1840s 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.

The Improvisatore

Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875) was a Danish author best known for his fairy tales, including “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “The Little Mermaid,” and “The Ugly Duckling.” He was also a prolific writer of novels, plays, travel books, and poetry.

Frank Hugus has taught German and Scandinavian studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst since 1970 and has translated three novels by the Danish author Hans Scherfig in addition to dozens of short stories by contemporary Danish writers. He has published scholarly articles on Hans Christian Andersen’s novels and plays.

The Improvisatore

Contents
Introduction
Frank Hugus
The Improvisatore
Part I
I
My Earliest Surroundings
II
The Visit to the Catacombs  I Become a Choir Boy  The Pretty Little Angel  The Improvisatore
III
The Flower Festival in Genzano
IV
Uncle Peppo  A night in the Colosseum  My Departure
V
The Campagna
VI
My Visit to Palazzo Borghese  The Story of My Childhood Ends
VII
Life at School  Habbas Dahdah  La Divina Commedia  The Senator’s Nephew
VIII
A Pleasant and an Unpleasant Encounter  The Little Abbess  The Old Jew
IX
The Jewish Girl
X
One Year Later  The Roman Carnival  The Soprano
XI
Bernardo as Deus ex MachinaLa Prova di un Opera Seria  My First Improvisation The Last Day of the Carnival
XII
Lent Allegri’s Miserere in the Sistine Chapel A Visit to Bernardo  Annunziata
XIII
The Picture Gallery  A More Accurate Explanation  The Easter Celebration  The Turning Point of My Fate
XIV
The Farmers of Rocca del Papa  The Den of Thieves  The Goddess of My Fate
Part II
I
The Pontine Marshes  Terracina  An Old Acquaintance  The Birthplace of Fra Diavolo  The Orange Garden near Mola di Gaeta  The Neapolitan Signora  Naples
II
Pain and Consolation  A Closer Acquaintanceship with the Signora  The Professor  The Letter  Did I Understand Her?
III
A Walk through Herculaneum and Pompeii  An Evening on Vesuvius
IV
An Unexpected Encounter  My Performance at Teatro San Carlo
V
Santa  The Eruption  Old Relationships
VI
The Journey to Paestum  The Greek Temples  The Blind Girl
VII
The Adventure in Amalfi  The Blue Grotto in Capri
VIII
The Trip Home
IX
My Education  The Little Abbess
X
Old Domenica  The Discovery  An Evening in Nepi  Terni  The Sea-farer’s Song  Venice
XI
The Storm  A Soirée at the Home of My Banker  The Podesta’s Niece
XII
The Soprano
XIII
Poggio  Annunziata  Maria
XIV
Verona’s Distinctive Features  The Cathedral of Milan  A Meeting at Napoleon’s Triumphal Arch  Dream and Reality  The Blue Grotto