INTERVIEWS Hans Christian Andersen is about daring to seek adventure

For County Council Chairperson Jan Boye, Hans Christian Andersen 2005 provides an obvious occasion for asking yourself whether you are hiding any of your talents and whether you are ready to take responsibility for the goals you desire in life. We met him in a quiet corner of the Internet and asked him 11 pertinent question

By Mikkel Stjernberg - H.C. Andersen 2005 - 17 January 2003

The County Council Chairperson for the County of Funen, Jan Boye, does not think that his relationship with Hans Christian Andersen differs in any material respect from that of most people. However, as one of the major figures organizing the celebration of Andersen's 200th birthday in 2005, he is, of course, very aware of Hans Christian Andersen these days.

It especially intrigues him that non-Danes are not immediately familiar with Odense but, strangely enough, can find the city on a map straightaway, if you say it is Hans Christian Andersen's hometown. Andersen is simply in a different class from any other Dane. 

How is it that Hans Christian Andersen possesses this ability to speak to the whole world regardless of age, time, place, social status, etc.?
It is because the themes and stories are all relevant today in spite of the fact that they have a different meaning for children, young people and adults. And that the fairy tale as a genre always fascinates and fills us with enthusiasm regardless of age, time and place.

How does it feel to put Funen on the international map in this way?
Of course, I'm incredibly happy that we were able to put together both public and private funding for this huge, impressive commemoration of Hans Christian Andersen's 200th birthday. And I am very proud that the County of Funen is part of the celebration with our grant of 15 million Danish crowns.

What can a project like HCA2005 do for Danish culture?
It is of enormous significance that the 200th anniversary is being marked nationally and internationally in relationship to the marketing of Danish culture generally. The project creates an international reputation that has great marketing value for Odense, Funen and the country as a whole.

What side of Andersen would you like to see as setting the tone?
That we understand Hans Christian Andersen's challenge to us all to seek happiness even in situations where it looks as though all the odds are against you.

Do you read Hans Christian Andersen yourself/have you read him aloud for your children?
Yes, both were given as christening gifts Hans Christian Andersen?s collected fairy tales and stories, which they like to leaf through and have read aloud.  I think that it is important that my children know Andersen's fairy tales, and I hope that, with this project, we can come to know more aspects of Andersen's works than just the most well known fairy tales.

What is your favourite fairy tale?
I can mention several, but I will single out Clumsy Hans, because he so nonchalantly achieves his goals.

What do you think Hans Christian Andersen would have said to the fact that we are celebrating him in this way?
I hope he would be proud and honored, but I suspect he might say that we are making too much out of it, even though, deep inside, he would not have meant it.

The HCA2005 project can be carried out on this scale, because public and private funding have been brought together for a common goal.  What long-term perspectives do you see for this construction?
I'm a supporter of public and private cooperation, also in cultural life in the broad sense, and this great celebration can only be realized, because public and private are working together. It has in every way been a positive experience to work together with my other colleagues on the foundation board.
Hans Christian Andersen managed his public image in a style comparable to the best international brand names we know today. What is your view of this side of him and what can we learn from it?
I do not believe that you should hide your talents and you cannot say that the strategy did not work for Andersen. We can also learn that the primary responsibility for what you want to achieve lies with yourself.

Hans Christian Andersen received economic support from the King during the first many years of his career. If he had not received it, it is not certain that he would have become the writer of the calibre we know. What connections do you see between this and public sector support of the arts today?
At that time, the King was the public sector and, in this way, was parallel to public support of culture and individual artists today.  Today, more people have an opportunity to develop their talents than in Hans Christian Andersen's time.

If you were to take one thing from Hans Christian Andersen, his fairy tales or his person, and pass it on to someone else with the words: "this is what it is all about," what would it be?
That it is possible to realize your dreams and hopes even if your circumstances oppress and strive against you.