Dorte is twenty and adrift, pretending to study literature at Copenhagen University. In reality she is riding the trains and clocking up random encounters in her new home by the railway tracks. She remembers her ex, Per – the first boyfriend she tells us about, and the first she leaves – as she enters a new world of transient relationships, random sexual experiences and awkward attempts to write.
A short mesmerizing novel written in Helle’s classic minimal style — reminiscent, critics have said, of Raymond Carver, Mike Leigh, and Ali Smith — with a new translation from Martin Aitken. This Should Be Written in the Present Tense is a unique story filled with warm dead-pan wit and tender insight — a novel for anyone who has ever been young, sleepless, and a little reckless, trying to figure it all out.
Helle Helle’s simple, to-the-point prose cuts to the quick... it’s refreshing to find such an intimate book that leaves something for the reader to writer in their own mind... This Should be Written in the Present Tense is a contemporary classic in the making.
A book with all the bigness hidden away
[A] realism that is at once technically stringent and mordantly amusing.
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 . . .
By perfectly capturing Dorte’s wistfulness and her search for purposeful connection, Helle Helle makes us feel less alone.
The quiet and immersive Scandinavian setting, a back-and-forth pace, and the charming, interruptible monotony of companionable narrator Dorte’s day-to-day life make Helle’s tale a natural choice for those who favor frame over traditional plot.
Some of the novel’s efficacy has to do with occasional passages of soft but stunning power, but its real success lies wholly in the strange alchemy of Helle’s storytelling . . . This Should Be Written in the Present Tense possesses an immediacy that tenderly and consistently compels.