With the Frankfurt Book Fair literally around the corner, it seemed appropriate to post something about the most recent trip (don’t worry, Iceland, Chad’s got your back for a recap) we took in the name of bringing great world literature to an international audience. Just over a week ago, Chad and I had the opportunity to hook over to Copenhagen, Denmark, for a brief (yet incredibly informative) editorial and research trip. Our goal: to learn more about the Danish publishing scene, its authors and other key players, and to learn about some modern classics of Danish literature that have not yet made it into the English speaking world.
This is going to be a somewhat disjointed recap, but when you’re packed full of all the information possible in three days’ time, things are bound to jump around a little. Expect parentheticals galore.
Over the course of three days we met with around 15 book folk—publishers, agents, authors, book sellers, arts council reps—and came away with a crapton of fantastic recommendations and insights. Before leaving for Denmark, the Danish Arts Council (to whom we are ever grateful for providing only our travel grant) set us up with a comprehensive list of people we should speak with or meet while abroad—a list that led us to some truly great contacts, and a better view of contemporary and classic Danish literature. The targets of our meetings ranged from two of the country’s largest houses, Rosinante & Co. and its parent company Gyldendal (both who have some of the coolest interior design elements I’ve seen in my life), to the pleasantly curious and not-unlike-Open-Letter indie press Basilisk (whose director, Martin Larsen, published an eight-volume collection of all the legal combinations of names—possibly around six million in total—as listed on the Danish government’s website that a person could register in Denmark—all interspersed at random with single lines of poetry); from agencies like Lindhart og Ringhof and Anneli Høier who represent some of the coolest authors in Denmark, to the authors and translators themselves, like Simon Fruelund (who was just in Rochester for a Reading the World Conversation Series event with his translator, K.E. Semmel, during which they discussed both Simon’s Civil Twilight and Milk, a book of short, short stories, which are perfect in their brevity, timing, and weight of what is left unsaid or unexplained), Iben Mondrup (whose prose challenges the setup and reception of linguistics, and whose parents regularly send her fish and whole legs of reindeer from Greenland), and Martin Aitken (who is a prolific and talented translator of Danish into English, a cool guy, and a big My Bloody Valentine fan).
My notebook is filled with Danish authors we were both already aware of and urged to check out, and some of the ones we’ve become particularly interested in (and in some cases obsessed with) are Claus Beck-Nielsen, Iben Mondrup, Josefine Klougart, Per Højølt, Asta Olivia Nordenhof, Pia Juul, and Naja Marie Aidt. These recommendations and more came from backlsits, frontlists, even people’s personal bookshelves (Andreas Poulsen of Arnold Busck runs the store’s book magazine—literally called “Bogmagasinet“—brought a stack of his all-time favorite Danish books from home, adding a nice nostalgic and personal touch to our growing list of names).
I’m probably missing a lot of things I know I wanted to write about the Copenhagen trip, but in addition to loading up on book knowledge, we also had the opportunity to wander around the city a bit (“wander” being the operative and relative term—I hadn’t been in Copenhagen in at least 10 years, and we had no city map), check out some great places in the old (yet still quasi-ongoing) meatpacking district, and make some new friends. And of course, find some awesome books. That said, once again a huge THANK YOU to Anne-Marie Rasmussen and everyone else at the Danish Arts Council for having us over for a visit, and the rest of you stay tuned to Open Letter’s list, as there will definitely be some Danish names cropping up in the near future.
For the past 140 years, Anna Karenina has been loved by millions of readers all over the world. It’s easy to see why: the novel’s two main plots revolve around characters who are just trying to find happiness through love.. . .
Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .
Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .
In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .
There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .
Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .
In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .
Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .
Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .