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This Should Be Written in the Present Tense

3.35  ·  Rating details ·  1,556 ratings  ·  176 reviews
This should be written in the present tense. But it isn’t. Dorte should be at uni in Copenhagen. But she’s not. She should probably put some curtains up in her new place. And maybe stop sleeping with her neighbour’s boyfriend. Perhaps things don’t always work out the way they should.
Paperback, 192 pages
Published November 5th 2014 by Vintage (first published April 2011)
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Mady There are two Dortes. One is the actual narrator and other is her Aunt.
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Dec 29, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A Christmas present from my mum, who loves Helle Helle. She was complaining that I didn't read enough Danish books, and Helle Helle lives in the same town as my parents, so... Christmas present.

But I will not read any more of Helle Helle's books. Nothing happens and I don't like her writing style. She writes like I did when I was 7. To show you this, here is a short resume of the book by me, in her writing style:

"I couldn't sleep, I could hear the train, it was half past four. I made breakfast,
Well, this was boring. This review ( pretty much sums it up.

But not only is this boring, it actually manages to be confusing too. The main character has the same name as her aunt (for a moment there, I thought we were reading about the aunt in her youth versus her 40's), and keeps jumping back and forth in time between seemingly equally boring periods of time in her life, only demarcated by her increasing inertia and exchange of boyfriends. She goes
The first English translation of Danish bestseller Helle Helle’s works, this is the melancholy story of a young woman drifting through life. Dorte Hansen, a university student, has recently moved to Copenhagen’s outskirts. Except she doesn’t attend classes. She doesn’t do anything, really. Insomnia lengthens her days into an eternity yet she can’t summon the energy to decorate her unfurnished flat by the railway station; she never even puts up curtains.

A restless wanderer, she fills her days
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
First off, let me say that this was the first book in decades I bought solely because I loved the title and especially the cover.

Secondly, the British translation of the original Danish text has - to my mind as a North American reader and writer of the language – tons and tons of comma splices.

Like this: "She said we could stay as long as we liked, all we had to do was shut the door behind us."

I realize that what North Americans consider to be comma splices are not so strictly viewed as
Theresa Juhl
Feb 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I want to give it 3 and 5 stars all at once

Read in Feb. 2015 and reread #1 in Oct. 2016
Juli Rahel
Sep 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I saw this book on Netgalley and two things drew me in about it. First was the synopsis which, in its bareness, was one of the most interesting ones I had read. And then there was the draw of reading something Scandinavian. I had never heard of Helle Helle and I think it's a shame that the only Scandinavian literature that really makes it to the rest of Europe is its thrillers and crime novels. This Should Be Written In Present Tense is an example of the kind of magnificent books we're missing ...more
Nov 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"'I'm not sure I agree with you on that,' I said, 'Sometimes things happen.'
'Yes,' she said. 'But that's only in reality. And here we're talking about fiction.'"

The stark minimalist prose that is, I assume, Helle Helle's trademark is, I imagine, quite divisive. I enjoyed it. It's a story where very little happens, love affairs start and end, journeys are taken, trains are missed, incidental snippets of a life that add up to something more. Or do things just happen without meaning? It's a book
Sep 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hmm. So reminded me of other writers of the mundane Sally Rooney and Karl Ove Knausgaard- both of whom I LOVE- but Helle's story never fully grabbed my attention. I read on passively despite confusion about Dorte (clarification earlier than 70 pages in would have been welcome) and a lukewarm feel for the book because I did like the brief chapters and the meandering writing describing Dorte's young oddball life. She has some emotional issues, pretends to be in college, riding the train each day, ...more
Bex Dawkins
Oct 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are the kind of reader who enjoyed Stoner and Knausgaard, then you'll like this. If those weren't your cup of tea, I'd give this a wide berth.

This is a very minimalist novel, where we follow a normal college girl who lives in a few different places during her time at college. It has no plot really, but instead we follow her every day life.

It's artistically written and fascinated me. The best way I can describe it is that Helle Helle is to books what Tracey Emin is to art.
Billy O'Callaghan
Twenty year-old Dorte has just moved to Glumsø, renting a small cottage very close to a steadily busy railway line. It is basic and cramped, but the rent is low and the location is ideally situated for an easy commute in and out of Copenhagen, where she is enrolled in college courses. She spends her days boarding buses and trains but largely avoiding the campus, preferring instead to roam the streets, shopping, drinking coffee, eating and sitting around. At home, she cooks the simplest possible ...more
Jan 24, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nov 26, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: interior
I usually really like minimalist books, but I wasn't a huge fan of this one (I'm willing to attribute it to timing and maybe try again later, it's pretty short haha). I did admire the matter of fact quality of the writing and the complete lack of indication towards significance - there were times where I thought the author would break and give me something, but it never came.

The best part of the book: a retelling of a trip that Dorte, the protagonist's aunt, took with her boyfriend -- she is
May 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh, I loved this so much. I wish all books were this because I wish all movies were this because I want the world to be more like this: quiet, slow, subtle, detailed, lovely. I love details of what someone gets at the bakery or store. This book is my favorite kind of book and also my favorite kind of movie. I loved it and was lucky to happen upon it when I did a brief search on the Libby library app for Danish fiction. I hope this writer has more!
Laura Waddell
I found this just ok. On the theme of self-determination, it didn't work as strongly or as touchingly as Naive.Super by Erlend Loe or Autoportrait or Suicide by Edouard Leve which share some characteristics of format, the repetitive daily motions of someone either itemising their life in order to scrutinise it, or stuck in a rut whether through depression, writer's block, or existential ennui. Its short sentences, often with comma splices, are too often inelegant and blunt rather than immediate ...more
Nov 27, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
An exellent example of why I shouldn’t buy a book just because it has a curious title, its cover is beautiful and it is from one of my Nordic dream countries. It was as boring as hell for me.
Julie Mestdagh
Apr 24, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If I could give one advice to the author of "This should be written in present tense", is to change the title of the book to "This should not have been written at all". This is a story written by Helle Helle, apparently Denmarks' master in minimalism. Well, I can agree on that one. Minimalistic it is. 186 pages of …. nothing. Really. Sheer nothing.

Main character Dorte lives in a bungalow near a train station and is supposed to be studying at the university of Copenhagen, only she isn't. She
Aug 15, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This Should be Written in the Present Tense by Helle Helle is a book written in ‘staccato’ but with a mood that is distinctly ‘lamentoso’.

Short, detatched and seemingly unrelated sentences deliver the story of Dorte, a university student living alone and not going to classes. There’s a fair degree of commentary on apple trees, trains, insomnia, ex-boyfriends and her aunt (also named Dorte).

“After that the suitcase lived in my room. At one point it was a bedside table, the lamp threw a white cone
This review was originally posted here at Hepburn's Pixie Crop.

Helle Helle's This Should Be Written in the Present Tense is a very simple book. It tells the story of Dorte, a young women, supposedly studying in Copenhagen, but really living alone by a railway station, unsure of what to do with her days. Throughout the story she has numerous relationships with men of varying intensities, but they never fill the void for her. This sense of emptiness and lack can be felt through Helle's incredibly
Mar 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, favorites, tr, cover
"I had a feeling I needed help in other areas as well, but I didn't know which. When I covered my ears with my hands there was a rushing noise inside me that sounded like a whole shoreline. It wasn't worrying in itself. But I had this little flutter under my breadtbone, it felt like homesickness. Perhaps it was just acid reflux." pg 70

This book probably won't win many fans, except for maybe sad college girls. The narrator's refrain is alternately "I didn't know what to do with myself" and "I
Sep 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful in it's subtlety and honesty. May be best for those with acute sensitivity to the suspense of everyday life. This can be refreshing when so many books thrive on the operatic nature of life and it's meaning-- which I also appreciate at times. Though on slow-moving, melancholic days, I found it pleasant to sit with this delicate portrait of a story of what it means to be young, directionless and utterly human.
Aug 04, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The only positive I can think for this novel is that its only 186 pages. And a lot of those pages have blank space. This book is like one of those foreign films you watch, that's meant to be true to life, but you don't get the point of why it was made because it meanders and goes absolutely no where.
Kira Clark
Feb 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very quiet, dreamy book. If you're looking for a plot driven narrative this won't be it, but if you like books that leave you longing and sad but also hopeful and like you're noticing the world again through the voice of a woman you should read this. There is so much going on between the simple sentences. I loved it.
This Should Be Written in the Present Tense is writing in its most simplistic form. This doesn't have to be a negative thing, it was interesting to see a style like this, but in terms of what I love to read, this wasn't necessarily it.
Jul 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016
This book reminds me of early 20th century women modernist writers like Jean Rhys and Virginia Woolf. It captures the disillusioned identity of a wandering woman in the 21st century, and it does so in a beautiful narrative. I honestly wish I could understand Danish so I could read her other books.
Nov 27, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A bunch of self-obsessed navel-gazing told in primary school prose. Awful and boring.
Morgan Schulman
It's been done many times since the 80s and it's not adding anything new to the conversation.
Short book with a lovely cover. Author born 1965, popular in Denmark as a minimalist novelist.

Kind of depressing reading about this 19 and 20 year old [the I person] who has not yet found her way, enrolled at university but not attending, doing actually very little. I didn't pick up clues about why she stays so far away from her parents; she does run into them occasionally [and tries not to let them see her]. They seem preoccupied with their own ordinary-seeming lives and perhaps they
Michael Conland
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very unusual. I've read some novels similar in style to this, but nothing this minimalist. It definitely falls into the category of a story where nothing much actually happens. If you need a heavy, plot driven narrative, this is not for you.

The short, angular writing style is weirdly compelling. I don't think you'd usually expect a novel which almost entirely foregoes descriptions to be able to set a scene as well as this does.

However, I couldn't help but feel that there was some point in the
Amanda Simmons
I have a lot of feelings about this book.

I must say first that this is a slice of life about a 20-year-old who doesn't know what she's doing with her life, which is incredibly relatable to my life. That being said, I generally read as a form of escapism so that wasn't necessarily a good thing for me. It was difficult for me to get through.

I did enjoy the writing a good bit, as well as the nods the author makes to the fact that this story is, in fact, a book. The angsty young adult in me loves
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Helle Helle has a talant for the mundane and ordinary and turning it into a strangely gripping read. The work consists of everything that might have been pruned from a novel and thrown away as irrelevant and slowing down the telling of a fast paced tale. Her observation of daily life rituals in their most banal leaves a sense of purposelessness and to me wasted minutes of life. I believe she paints an authentic picture of life for many people and particularly for provincial Denmark. Nothuing ...more
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Helle Helle (born 1965) published her first book in 1993. Since then, her work has garnered overwhelming critical and popular acclaim.

Recently awarded the Golden Laurel literary prize, Helle Helle is the recipient of countless literary accolades, among them the Danish Critics’ Prize, the Danish Academy’s Beatrice Prize, the P.O. Enquist Award and the prestigious Lifetime Award of the Danish Arts
“Forældrene gik og fløjtede nede i baghaven. De havde ikke rigtig styr på ukrudtet, de var begge to dansklærere.” 4 likes
“Jeg spørger hele tiden mig selv: Hvorfor skal dét med, hvorfor skal dét med? Og hvis jeg ikke kan finde en grund, kommer det ikke med.” 3 likes
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