National Danish Book Club & Literary Event Series

Explore a selection of Danish literature in English translation with a new nationwide book club coming this fall! Each month a celebrated Danish author will be selected and discussed in a virtual setting via Zoom. Book Club Discussions will be moderated by Faculty Associate Nete Schmidt from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Former Danish lecturer, Désirée Ohrbeck, will facilitate the accompanying Literary Events. Current and classic works of Danish literature will be read and discussed, accompanied by author and special guest interviews. The Zoom events will begin in September and continue each month until May of 2022.

Participating groups:
Scan Design Foundation, Museum of Danish America, Northwest Danish Association, National Foundation for Danish America, National Nordic Museum, American-Scandinavian Foundation, University of Wisconsin – Madison, University of Washington Scandinavian Studies Department

Recent updates:

November 16th Book Club Meeting: Victim 2117

Register for the next book club meeting to join the discussion on Victim 2117 by Jussi Adler-Olsen. The meeting is moderated by Nete Schmidt and will take place on November 16th at 5:00 pm PT (8:00 pm ET).

October 19th Literary Event: Interview with Olga Ravn

See a virtual book talk on The Employees with author Olga Ravn and translator Martin Aitken! With moderator Katrine Øgaard Jensen, they discuss the novel, currently out in translation from Lolli Editions and shortlisted for the 2021 International Booker Prize. To receive reminders for the literary events such as this one, register here.

September 21 Literary Event Series: Watch on YouTube

Watch the Literary Event for Helle Helle’s This Should Be Written in The Present Tense with event series facilitator Désirée Ohrbeck who talks to Claus Elholm Andersen, Ph.D., the Paul and Renate Madsen Assistant Professor of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Andersen has written extensively on the Danish contemporary writer Helle Helle and in 2018 edited a special issue about her writings for Spring, a scholarly journal.


Tentative Schedule

This Should Be Written in the Present Tense

By Helle Helle

  • Tuesday September 14 5:00PM (PT) – 8:00PM (ET) – Group discussion –
  • Tuesday September 21 10:00AM (PT) – 1:00PM (ET) – Literary event

The Employees

By Olga Ravn

  • Tuesday October 12 5:00PM (PT) – 8:00PM (ET) – Group discussion – Register here.

  • Tuesday October 19 – 10:00AM (PT) – 1:00PM (ET) – Pre-recorded (American-Scandinavian Foundation) Author Interview with Olga Ravn

Victim 2117

By Jussi Adler-Olsen

  • Tuesday November 16 5:00PM (PT) – 8:00PM (ET) – Group discussion

  • Tuesday November 23 10:00AM (PT) – 1:00PM (ET)- Literary event (Author Interview)

December: Babette’s Feast

By Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen)

  • Tuesday December 14 5:00PM (PT) – 8:00PM (ET)- Group discussion

  • Thursday December 16 10:00AM (PT) – 1:00PM (ET)- Literary event (Special guest interview)

November – Victim 2117  by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Jussi Adler-Olsen is Denmark’s #1 crime writer and a New York Times bestselling author. His books routinely top the bestseller lists in Europe and have sold more than twenty-four million copies around the world. In Victim 2117, readers finally learn the backstory of Assad, the mysterious middle easterner who is one of the 4 detectives which constitute Department Q. 

  • Tuesday November 16, 5:00PM Pacific (8:00PM Eastern) – Group discussion – Register here.
  • Tuesday November 23, 10:00AM Pacific (1:00PM Eastern) – Literary event (Author Interview)

Victim 2117 can be found online here.

December – Babette’s Feast by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen)

Denmark, 1870s. Two deeply religious elderly sisters living in an isolated village take in a French refugee from the Franco-Prussian war, Babette. She becomes their housekeeper and is happy to work for no pay. 14 years later, Babette wins a large amount of money in a lottery. The event coincides with the 100th anniversary of the birth of the sisters’ father, a devout Christian minister who had a great following in the village. Babette decides to throw a great dinner for the the remaining followers to honor the occasion. One thing: the dinner will be French and once the ingredients start to arrive, the unsophisticated villagers suspect that something unholy is about to take place.

  • Tuesday December 14 5:00PM Pacific – 8:00PM Eastern – Group discussion – Register here.
  • Thursday December 16 10:00AM Pacific – 1:00PM Eastern – Literary event (Special guest interview)

October – The Employees by Olga Ravn

Structured as a series of witness statements compiled by a workplace commission, The Employees follows the crew of the Six-Thousand Ship which consists of those who were born, and those who were made, those who will die, and those who will not. When the ship takes on a number of strange objects from the planet New Discovery, the crew is perplexed to find itself becoming deeply attached to them, and human and humanoid employees alike start aching for the same things: warmth and intimacy, loved ones who have passed, shopping and child- rearing, our shared, far-away Earth, which now only persists in memory.

  • Tuesday October 12 5:00PM Pacific – 8:00PM Eastern – Group discussion – Register here
  • Tuesday October 19 10:00AM Pacific – 1:00PM Eastern – Pre-recorded (American Scandinavian Foundation) Author Interview with Olga Ravn

The Employees can be found online here.

Download a copy of the discussion questions for the book club taking place on October 12th.

Previous Events:

September- This Should be Written in the Present Tense by Helle Helle

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.

Tuesday September 14 5:00PM Pacific / 8:00PM Eastern – Group discussion

Tuesday September 21 – 10:00AM Pacific / 1:00PM Eastern – Literary Event: Simulcast on Facebook and YouTube

Event series facilitator Désirée Ohrbeck talked to Claus Elholm Andersen, Ph.D., the Paul and Renate Madsen Assistant Professor of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Andersen has written extensively on the Danish contemporary writer Helle Helle and in 2018 edited a special issue about her writings for Spring, a scholarly journal.

Désirée Ohrbeck is a former Visiting Lecturer of Danish (2010-2016) for the Scandinavian Studies Department at the University of Washington, now serving on its advisory board. She is a columnist for the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and a frequent contributor in Danish media.

Watch this conversation for free on Facebook or YouTube, hosted virtually by the Museum of Danish America:



Click here if you’d like to be sent a reminder email for the Literary Event series in advance.

Additional Information:

The 2022 (January-May) books and guests will soon be determined. Books will be available for purchase through independent booksellers, and digital versions may also be available through online resellers. Please contact one of the participating organizations if you have difficulty purchasing one of the selections. 

  • American Scandinavian Foundation and Scandinavia House – New York
  • Museum of Danish America – Elk Horn, Iowa
  • National Foundation for Danish America – Chicago
  • National Nordic Museum – Seattle
  • Northwest Danish Association – Seattle
  • ScanDesign Foundation – Seattle
  • University of Washington Scandinavian Studies
  • University of Wisconsin

About Our Book Club Moderator

Nete Schmidt

Nete Schmidt, a native of Aarhus, received her degrees in English and Danish from the University of Copenhagen and taught at Bjerringbro Junior College and the University of Aarhus for many years. She came to the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1998, and following eight years as Visiting Assistant Professor, she became a Faculty Associate in the Scandinavian Studies Unit in the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic (GNS). She has been teaching Danish and Scandinavian Literature courses such as The Tales of Hans Christian Andersen, Criminal utopias, and Sexual Politics in Scandinavia.

In 2008, she started The Danish Book Club in Madison, and it is still going strong.  She is also a member of several other book clubs and thoroughly enjoys reading and discussing literature.

She hopes that the National Danish Book Club will provide its participants with a number of interesting, thought-provoking, new, and old books to read and discuss.  And discussion and participation in a very relaxed manner is definitely an important aspect.  Everybody is invited to share thoughts and ideas in a non-judgmental, non-biased, respectful, and very open setting, so every book club will be a different experience depending on the participants and their views. There is, of course, no obligation to participate if one is more inclined to listen and absorb the opinions of others, but rather than lecturing or teaching, there will be open discussion.  As always, with literature, there are no right or wrong thoughts or answers; what matters is interest, engagement, and a willingness to share one’s thoughts.

About Our Literary Event Faciliator

Désirée Ohrbeck

Désirée Ohrbeck served as a Danish Lecturer at the Scandinavian Studies Department at University of Washington from 2010-2016. She is now a proud board member for University of Washington Scandinavian Studies Advisory Board. Désirée M. Ohrbeck is a columnist writer for the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and a frequent contributor in Danish media both on TV and radio. She has written op-eds, commentaries, and essays for Politiken, Berlingske Tidende and Jyllands-Posten.

“I am not afraid to reflect on and ask questions centering around life choices, culture and religion, something I intend to utilize in my interviews with Danish authors. I am straight forward, and it is important to me to deal with topics in a way that is focused on bringing everyone in on the conversation in dealing with topics that affects all people. What better place to do this than in a conversation about literature?”

On a personal note, Désirée serves as an advisory board member on the Bellevue Gifted Alliance Advisory Board, representing highly capable learners with a learning disability (2E kids).

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