The Gustavian Weekly

Danish Author Dorthe Nors visits Gustavus | The Gustavian Weekly

By Anh Tran - Staff Writer | May 17, 2019 | Variety

Danish author Dorthe Nors visited campus from Monday, May 6 to Friday, May 10, Gustavus Adolphus College welcomed its twenty-first Out of Scandinavia Artist-in-Residence—
Established in 1989, the Out of Scandinavia Artist-in-Residence Program—the signatureoutreach program organized by the Department of Scandinavian Studies—serves to create a cultural and educational opportunity for Gustavus as well as the broader community.
This academic year, the program brought to campus one of the most original voices in
contemporary Danish literature. Dorthe Nors has written several short stories collections, novellas, and novels.
Her short stories have appeared in The New York Times and been widely taught in high school and college classes, in both Danish and English. Her most recent novel “Mirror, Shoulder, Signal” was a finalist for the Man Booker International Prize in 2017.
Nors was the first Dane to be visiting Gustavus Adolphus College as part of the Out of Scandinavia Artist-in-Residence Program. When she first arrived at Gustavus Adolphus College, Nors felt a surprisingly Scandinavian atmosphere with distinct American features, .
“I was surprised about how Swedish it was. There were so many students from different cultures, and yet the college was so Swedish. It was really interesting seeing that mixture of America, the world as such and home – i.e. Scandinavia. I later learned that this is called Scando-American. At the same time the place felt very American. Especially the gift store. I bought a Gustavus Adolphus sweatshirt, and socks,” Nors said.
Nors summarizes her visit in three words: ”inspiring, generous, [and] heartwarming.”
Throughout her stay at Gustavus Adolphus College, the Danish writer visited Scandinavian Studies and English classes including “Scandinavian Women Writers,” “Nordic Colonialisms,” “Introduction to Creative Writing,” “Writing Fiction,” and “Editing and Publishing.”
Outside of the classrooms, Nors engaged with the writing tutors in the Gustavus Writing Center and gathered with students in a Fika at the Swedish house. She conversed with students on topics from literary traditions to craft.
“When I visit countries with my literature, it’s normally to promote my books. That is at times a very superficial way of talking about literature. My visit to Gustavus Adolphus is the first time I actually had to teach something and have the time to dwell on literary topics for a while. Which is why I said yes to go. I wanted to talk about my work in a less shallow way. I enjoyed sharing my thoughts on the creative process with the students,” Nors said.
Nors helped broaden Gusties’ perspectives not only on writing as a career but also on cultural differences within Scandinavia
“I brought twenty years of publishing my books and living as a full-time writer, some insight into Scandinavian culture, literature and also insight into cultural differences of the Northern Region. Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland and Sweden might be closely related, but at the same time were very different. On my return to Denmark yesterday, I brought with me lovely memories of enthusiastic, well-prepared and helpful students. I got to know an amazing team of professors. I met fellow writers that I truly respect – and I brought home books given to me by people I met. I can’t wait to read all of them. On top of that I learned a lot about Minnesota, about the U.S., and about teaching, I probably learned much more but I’m too jet lagged to remember right now,” Nors said.
Impressed by Gustavus’s honoring its Swedish tradition, Nors also enjoyed her immersion among a diverse body of young writers, from different cultures, origins, and majors.
“I loved that there were so many students who were curious about writing. I also loved that so many students who majored in medicine, political science, and other subjects that don’t make literature necessary have participated in these classes out of their own free will. Creativity and empathy are important in all jobs and literature is a way of training that,” Nors said.
She shared stories of her writing journey, from beginning as an avid reader and scholar of literature, establishing her own voice as a young woman writer, to sharing it with the world.
“When the world started asking me what I had to say. I was 31 years old when I dared send a manuscript to a publishing house and after that it took 12 years before The United States and The United Kingdom lifted me across the Danish border into the world,” Nors said.
Nors shared that what she remembers most from her time at Gustavus Adolphus College are “the students, the professors, the fellow writers” and “that the tree that was blossoming in [her] front garden here in Denmark when [she] left, was blossoming all over Gustavus Adolphus when [she] arrived.”
To conclude her visit at Gustavus, Nors left a message for the young writers who are working their way into the world, just like herself twenty years ago.
“Hang in there. Just hang in there. And read, read, read. Be patient. Encounter the world.
And I think I mentioned this in one of Matt Rasmussen’s classes: I believe that the fundamental
karma rule of writing is, that if you don’t respect the voices of others, you can’t expect others to respect your voice. So keep reading, listening, paying attention. Keep on confronting ideas. Stay curious. You’ll never stop being vulnerable when you write. Don’t expect that to happen. Don’t wish for that to happen, either. Be courageous,” Nors said.

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