Year 2022: 30 Books

A Line in the World: A Year on the North Sea Coast by Dorthe Nors, trans. by Caroline Waight

By Lori Feathers

In this collection of illuminating essays Danish writer Dorthe Nors explores the untamed, tumultuous North Sea coast of Denmark where she was raised and to which she returns to make her home some forty years later. We accompany Nors through A Line in the World (Graywolf) as she journeys up and down the frigid and rugged coastline, across blustery sand spits, along beaches carved by the roiling sea, and into the fog-hued, thinly populated villages that dot its shores. Nors not only describes this wild place but reads it, animating its essence as if to give the landscape a voice of its own. 

Having lived in cities most of her adult life Nors’ urban mindset and mannerisms confront her elemental, nature-attuned plumb line, part of her being since childhood. It is this schism—the feeling of belonging to both the city and this desolate coast–that forms her identity and serves as a jumping-off point for her curious mind’s efforts to fuse the person she was with the person she has become. Certain locales, people, sensations are mnemonic triggers for Nors, resonating with the echo of another time; recollected but unrecoverable. Much of Nors’ poignant writing about this place is suffused with hope, whether it be the “cold Hawaii” surfers, who are revitalizing small towns, the shipwreck of the Dutch “tulip ship,” whose emptied hull deposited tulip bulbs along miles of coastline, creating a profusion of blooms the following spring, or the isolated, forgotten villages where women still don traditional dress to step to the rhythm of timeless local dances. 

Life not only continues but thrives on this North Sea coastline, where the harsh tides and winds continually shift the borders between land and sea, yet the vibrancy and resilience of its people still find, here, a place they call home.

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