cover image This Should Be Written in the Present Tense

This Should Be Written in the Present Tense

Helle Helle, trans. from the Danish by Martin Aitken. Counterpoint/Soft Skull (PGW, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-59376-633-7

In her first novel to be translated into English, Danish novelist Helle introduces new readers to her strikingly spare and introspective style. Twenty-one-year-old Dorte has just settled into a small bungalow near a railway station in the small town of Glumsø outside Copenhagen. There she struggles to find purpose (and a good night’s sleep) while simultaneously reminiscing about her first failed love affair and connecting with those who wander into her new life. Dorte pretends to be a student at Copenhagen University to appease her family, but her aspirations are centered on a vague impression that she should be writing something, even if she’s unsure what form it should take. Helle effectively captures the inner life of a lonely and newly independent young woman whose inner aimlessness may be at odds with the ambition of those around her, and who is just beginning to understand the nature of regret. Little actually happens in this slim novel, but the reader comes away with the impression that the short time Dorte spends in her bungalow will nevertheless serve as the foundation for much of her adult life. (Jan.)