Six Questions with Danish Author Dorthe Nors

Nors is at Gustavus through May 10 as the 2018-2019 Out of Scandinavia Artist-in-Residence hosted by the Department of Scandinavian Studies.
Posted on May 7th, 2019 by

Dorthe Nors (Photo by Kirsten Klein)

Danish novelist Dorthe Nors is the 2018-19 Out of Scandinavia Artist-in-Residence at Gustavus Adolphus College. Nors, whose novel Mirror, Shoulder, Signal was a finalist for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize, is on campus through Friday, May 10, as the guest of the Department of Scandinavian Studies.

“When I first read Nors I was struck by the pithy combination of utter darkness and wry humor found in her stories,” said Kjerstin Moody, Associate Professor of Scandinavian Studies. “At a moment when one can seemingly find book after book on the Danish concept of ‘hygge’ in bookstores around the United States and study after study of Denmark being the ‘happiest country in the world,’ Nors’ work forces readers to think more deeply about the nuance and complexity between darkness and light, between self and other, between thought and action.”

The weeklong residency includes Nors visiting various classes in both the Scandinavian Studies and English departments, engaging with the Writing Center Tutors, and enjoying student-run Fika at the Swedish House. The week is highlighted by a public lecture titled “From the Danish Outskirts, via Sweden—to the World” from 7-9 p.m. on Thursday, May 9 in the Linnaeus Arboretum’s Melva Lind Interpretive Center. Nors will also visit the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis for a reading and book signing at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 7. Both evening events are free and open to the public.

Considered one of the most original voices in contemporary Danish literature, Nors’ work has appeared in numerous publications including A Public Space, The Guardian, Tin House,  and The New Yorker. She has written two short story collections, a novella, and five novels including the critically acclaimed Mirror, Shoulder, Signal.  

In anticipation of her visit to campus, Nors answered six questions.

Gustavus: Your public lecture on Thursday, May 9, is titled “From the Danish Outskirts, via Swedento the World.” Will the lecture address at all ways in which your writing is influenced by Danish and Swedish culture and growing up in Scandinavia and the roles these cultures have had on your work? How, if so, if you might give us a little preview of what your talk will hold.

Nors: I will talk about growing up in rural Jutland, how I first learned about literature through singing, then Swedish writers and artists and then–whoops: into the world. It will be fun!

Gustavus: Could you speak about your decision to live and work outside of the big city/Copenhagen literati scene, and in, like Saint Peter, a more remote place in the provinces. Does this tie in at all to any country-city tensions you might find that exist in your work?

Nors: I’m completely torn between city life and country life. I love both and I need both. I live by the North Sea because the landscape is amazing and because I was able to afford a house there. But I spend time in Copenhagen every month. Or Aarhus. Or Stockholm. Or London. Or Minneapolis! 


Gustavus: What advice do you have for emerging writers?

Nors: Hang in there and most of all: Read!

Gustavus: What American authors’ work do you admire and why?

Nors: I like Flannery O’Connor, Claudia Rankine, Emily Dickinson, Jarett Kobek, George Saunders and a lot of others. I didn’t know much about American literature before I had my American breakthrough, so I’m still discovering. Sally Mann! Loved Sally Mann’s memoirs, by the way. 

Gustavus: The state of Minnesota has many residents who are descended from immigrants from the Nordic region. Have you observed any ways in which aspects of these ties are found in Minnesota in your previous visit(s) to the state?

Nors: Oh, yes, and if people come to the lecture I’ll tell them what I’ve noticed! 

Gustavus: What excites you most about visiting Gustavus Adolphus College?

Nors: I can’t wait to meet teachers and students. It is such a privilege to engage with young writers and the people who teach them. And I look forward to seeing the Minnesota River – I love the American rivers (a super fan of the Mississippi too!). 

The Out of Scandinavia Artist-in-Residence Program debuted in 1989 as an educational and cultural opportunity open to both the Gustavus and wider communities. The program’s specific goals are to enhance the College’s academic programs, to foster and develop stronger cultural ties with the Nordic countries, and to showcase Scandinavian art and artists to American audiences.

The Gustavus Out of Scandinavia Artist-in-Residence Program is proudly supported by the Marguerite Olson Pratt Out of Scandinavia Artist-in-Residence Program Endowment Fund established by Charlotte (Pratt) ’86 and Henrik ’88 Nordstrom of Minneapolis, Minnesota in honor of Charlotte’s late mother Marguerite, member of the Gustavus Class of 1953, lifelong educator, and avid promoter of all things Nordic.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


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