"Øjeblikket - en anskuelsesform hos H. C. Andersen".
This paper has been published in Andersen og Verden, Odense 1993.
The Moment - a Structure of Mind and World in Hans Christian Andersen's Poetic WritingsJohan de Mylius
(summary for pages 57-74)
In his very first book, dealing with Andersen as a novelist, Kierkegaard accused the writer of having no general view of life, meaning that Andersen was not capable of organizing a poetic world as an objective and balanced testimony of order and personally achieved meaningfulness.
Kierkegaard was both right and wrong. Andersen undoubtedly shared the general idea of his time, an idea of immanent meaning grasped through personal growth and development. And he gave shape to such views in both novels (The Improvisatore and The Two Baronesses) and fairy tales ("The Snow Queen" and "The Fir Tree"). Nevertheless, Andersen based his idea of growth not on social identity but on concepts of nature, nature often opposed to social order and therefore isolating the individual from an understanding of himself as fulfilling his destination in the course of time, in other words: as a historical being.
To Andersen meaning is not so much an insight as a total and intense experience of the satisfaction of deep desires.
The focus fixed by Andersen on both this type of experience and on nature leads to the consequence that Andersen isolates with increasing force the unique moment as the one and only possibility of experiencing meaning.
"The Last Dream of the Old Oak Tree", "A Story of the Sand-Dunes", "The Marsh King's Daughter", and even "The Little Match Seller" prove the existence and significance of this structure of mind and world in Andersen's works. It is a structure very similar to what is known as the central experiences of mysticism, although Andersen himself was no mystic at all.
But it is also a structure which can be found in later periods of literary history, in symbolism and expressionism, as a token of a modern disillusioned search for metaphysical experience in a world incapable of giving answers.