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.
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .
It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .
As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .
It’s a rare and wonderful book that begins and ends with violence and humor. At the start of Etgar Keret’s The Seven Good Years, Keret is in a hospital waiting for the birth of his first child while nurses, in. . .
Last year, Han Kang’s The Vegetarian was an unexpected critical hit. Now, it’s just been published in the U.S. and has already received a great deal of positive critical attention. The Vegetarian was a bold book to attempt as an. . .
It’s been almost a year since the publication of Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah, but despite being included on the 2015 PEN Translation award longlist, and some pretty vocal support from key indie presses, the book has. . .
Jorge Eduardo Benavides’ novel La paz de los vencidos (The Peace of the Defeated) takes the form of a diary written by a nameless Peruvian thirty-something intellectual slumming it in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands. Recently relocated. . .
Anyone with any interest at all in contemporary Moroccan writing must start with Souffles. A cultural and political journal, Souffles (the French word for “breaths”) was founded in 1966 by Abdellatif Laâbi and Mostafa Nissabouri. Run by a group of. . .
Randall Jarrell once argued a point that I will now paraphrase and, in doing so, over-simplify: As a culture, we need book criticism, not book reviews. I sort of agree, but let’s not get into all of that. Having finished. . .