Book Review: Helle Helle's This Should Be Written in the Present Tense

10:36 am


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 minimalist writing style, focusing more on surroundings and the normality of Dorte's flat than what she is actually feeling. I felt, whilst reading, that I could picture everything in minute detail, from layers of dust to minor fabric imperfections, but Dorte's thoughts still passed me by. I did, however, feel a real closeness to her way of thinking  when it was described. There is a wonderful parallel in this too between Dorte's life and that of another young woman, her older friend, also called Dorte, which can be confusing for the first few chapters. Their lives mirror one another, despite a difference in ages. I enjoyed the idea that their experiences are universal.

This short novel does a very believable job at describing the life of a young woman unsure of where her life is heading, and unsure of what she really wants, simply through its sparse, yet beautiful, writing style. I've never read a text like this before, and the only thing I can think to compare it to, bizarrely, is the work of Samuel Beckett and the emptiness his writing contains, whilst still giving the reader so much to work with.

Recommended to: young women, and appreciators of minimalism. 

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