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31.5.05

Hans Christian Andersen Bicentenary

I hadn't heard about it before this, but Danish fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen was born 200 years ago on April 2. According to this article (Andersen bicentenary chief quits, May 30) from BBC News, the celebrations of that event have been marred by controversy. A concert on April 2 has brought enough negative attention to the festival's organizer that he had to resign:

Anker Boye has announced his resignation after a showpiece event ran up losses of millions of dollars. The televised extravaganza on 2 April was intended to raise money for literacy programmes in the Third World. Mr Boye was heavily criticised for hiring the singer Tina Turner, who was paid nearly $1m (£0.5m) for two songs. Critics said the American singer had no obvious link with either Denmark or Hans Christian Andersen, the author famous for fairytales like the Ugly Duckling and the Emperor's New Clothes.
Mr. Boye is also the mayor of the city of Odense, where Andersen was born and a charming place where Mrs. Ionarts and I spent some time with friends several years ago. Apparently, one of the songs Tina Turner sang was "Simply the Best," which she dedicated to Andersen (I bet an alert reader can come up with a good new verse of text for that song, appropriate to Hans Christian Andersen). Isabel Allende, Roger Moore, and Harry Belafonte also participated. Although the Danes are apparently sick and tired of hearing about him, you can also go to the Hans Christian Andersen Center in Odense for some more info.

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