EASY to forget. That is the destiny of small countries that are not too flashy, if one were to use the vocabulary of fashion designers. Denmark has been doing well for quite a long time now and, apart from the Mohammed cartoon crisis in 2006 that hit the headlines worldwide, it hardly ever makes it to the international news pages. Still, there is something that would not be the same without the contribution of a Dane: the world of fairytales, enhanced by Hans Christian Andersen.
Andersen was born in Odense, a city on the Danish island of Fyn, in 1805. Throughout his life he wrote dozens of stories, many of which are famous all around the world. The ugly duckling, the little mermaid, the snow queen, the little match girl or the brave tin soldier are all characters familiar to Slovak children too.
Hans Christian Andersen is now a well-known personality in the city of Bratislava. His statue, designed by Tibor Bártfay and erected to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth in 2006, stands on Hviezdoslavovo Square and reminds passers-by not only of his stories, whose characters surround the figure of Andersen, but also of the fact that he once visited Bratislava.
“The presentation of Danish culture in Slovakia has traditionally been centred on the translation of some of the giants in Danish classical literature and philosophy,” said Ambassador Jorgen Munk Rasmussen in an interview for The Slovak Spectator, mentioning the name of Hans Christian Andersen along with Soren Kierkegaard, the famous Danish existentialist philosopher, whose works were translated by notable Slovak translators like Milan Žitný or Milan Richter.
Kierkegaard’s philosophy represented a milestone in the development of modern western philosophical thought, leaning toward Christian understanding of life and the world and influencing many following generations, even today’s.
In Slovakia, a unique example of the links between Danish and the Slovak culture is the Kierkegaard centre in Šaľa run by Roman Králik from the Faculty of Philosophy of the Constantine The Philosopher University in Nitra. Over the past year, Králik has been very active with publications and events related to Kierkegaard.
However, contemporary Danish culture is also finding its way to Slovaks. Contemporary films appear at various festivals and cultural venues, such as Nordfest, One World or The Nordic Film Festival.
Slovakia and Denmark also share strong traditions in music, especially classical, but also jazz.
“The fine and performing arts in both our countries have strong national roots but are at the same time also characterised by a profound influence from our big neighbours,” Ambassador Rasmussen told The Slovak Spectator, adding that cultural cooperation has developed over recent years and that there is definitely room for mutual enrichment when it comes to architecture, classical and jazz music, ballet and literature.