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The relationship between a daring young chamois hunter from the remote Bernese Oberland and a prosperous miller’s daughter living in the comfortable French-speaking Swiss canton of Vaud plays out a complex of themes, such as the instinctive life versus rational civilization and the role of early experience in shaping personal destiny, in this dark and affecting Hans Christian Andersen adult novella.In the terrifying Ice Virgin and her eerie minions, with their implacable hatred of mankind, we get a glimpse of the fairy tale Andersen. But The Ice Virgin, the most disturbing, ambitious, and searching of all of Andersen’s narratives, is also a thoroughly absorbing story of the real world. Andersen here is writing about a world he saw as something of a paradigm of the human condition, and this lies behind the story’s multilayered complexity.This splendid new translation by Paul Binding and his erudite and comprehensive afterword together make a compelling case for just why The Ice Virgin deserves to be placed in the first rank of world literature.
Paul Binding is a literary critic, novelist, and a renowned expert in Scandinavian literature who has been involved in the promotion of Scandinavian culture for more than twenty years. After spending his early childhood in Germany, he returned to be educated in England and studied English literature at Oxford University. A former managing editor for Oxford University Press and an editor for the New Statesman, he frequently contributes reviews to The Independent and The Times Literary Supplement. Among his books are studies of Ibsen, Lorca, Robert Louis Stevenson, Eudora Welty, and Hans Christian Andersen, and the translation from the Danish of The Overlook Press’s edition of The Ice Virgin.