A Fairy Tale of Infinity and Love Forever: Yayoi Kusama Illustrates Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”
By Maria Popova
In her tremendous essay on fairy tales and the importance of being scared, the Polish poet and Nobel laureate Wisława Szymborska celebrated Hans Christian Andersen as a storyteller endowed with “the courage to write stories with unhappy endings,” who “didn’t believe that you should try to be good because it pays … but because evil stems from intellectual and emotional stuntedness and is the one form of poverty that should be shunned.”
This courageous dedication to the richness of the human experience, across the entire spectrum of darkness and light — one which he embraced in his own life — is what has rendered Andersen one of the most beloved storytellers of all time. His fairy tales have garnered an impressive roster of imaginative interpretations by some of the most important artists in the century and a half since Andersen first enchanted the world. Now comes an uncommonly bewitching addition from iconic Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama in The Little Mermaid: A Fairy Tale of Infinity and Love Forever (public library) — the loveliest reimagining of a classic fairy tale since Neil Gaiman’s splendid illustrated retelling of Hansel and Gretel.
In this lavishly ravishing edition commissioned by the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Kusama — who has previously illustrated Alice in Wonderland — brings her distinctive and deliciously weird whimsy to the Andersen classic. The black-and-white psychedelia of her illustrations, which accomplish astonishing vibrancy in the complete absence of color, are enveloped in the elegant typography of the story text, as translated by Jean Hersholt in 1949, and rendered with thoughtfulness and aesthetic mastery by graphic designer Marie d’Origny Lübecker.
Published August 22, 2016