The stories so far…

The jumping off point for my research has been building up a corpus of literature from Denmark that has been published in the UK since 1990. The ‘big breakthrough’ text in this field was Peter Høeg’s Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow (1993), which is why 1990 is as good a starting point as any (for now… as with all things, this may change!). To research this I used the British National Bibliography (searchable via the British Library website) and the UN’s Index Translationum, cross-referenced with online resources such as GoodReads and Amazon for bibliographical data, and – more recently – the database on

So now I have a lovely spScreenshot 3readsheet with the following information about each text: title (in the UK), author’s name, year published in the UK, original title (in Danish), year published in Denmark, name of UK publisher, translator’s name. I have found 48 texts so far (1990-present). To make the data more accessible, I made it look pretty using an online timeline tool called (see screenshots)

Sadly tiki-toki’s search function is a bit glitchy, as evidenced when I tried to demonstrate how neatly it highlights texts translated by a particular translator (it found one result but there should have been six, and six were on the timeline!). That aside, it provides a lovely visual reference and starting point for adding more and more layers of data. Next, for example, I could tag the texts depending on what might be significant – for example ‘large publisher’ vs ‘indie publisher’, or ‘Nordic Noir’ (crime fiction) vs other fiction, to Screenshot 2see if there are any patterns. I have only included literary fiction novels, I have excluded children’s books, poetry, non-fiction, and other media such as films and TV (even though it’s the TV shows shown on BBC4 that Denmark is well known for right now: The Killing, Borgen, The Bridge). So I could add some of these. It should also be beneficial to add other key texts from Scandinavian literary canon such as Wallander and Stieg Larsson’s trilogy. So alongside researching other aspects of my project, I will be adding to and making use of this timeline, guided by where my research takes me. (Ideas and thoughts about using this as a reference tool much appreciated, please reply below!)

For the first month, I found time to do this around the baby (among other aspects of my project, to be blogged about soon) by delegating childcare to my partner, my mum, friends, and a great local workspace/crèche, allowing me a random assortment of evenings, weekends, a few hours during the week, and occasional full weekdays. I’m grateful to friends who have been able to spend time with the baby in our flat while I nip into another room and write some emails, do some organising, or even manage some reading. It’s difficult to concentrate if I’m in the next room and I can hear her so I try not to plan anything ‘big’ for these occasions. I like working at the university library when I can – it may seem an odd choice to commute into central London when I could just work anywhere with internet access, but uni provides a great studious atmosphere and I treat it like I’m going to work. (Also there’s a Pret nearby and I’m a sucker for Pret!)

The workspace/crèche is our only “paid” childcare option so far, and my main observations are that it’s great, there should be more spaces like it, yet it seems to be under-utilised as it’s often pleasantly quiet! It works best for 2 or 3 hour stretches, any longer and the baby would be too tired or it’d clash with a mealtime and that seems like too much hassle. I find I can treat the workspace a lot like the library: it makes me feel like I’m “at the office”. If the baby was even a couple of months younger I don’t think this option would work, I recall she was very clingy (understandably, developmentally speaking!) around 7-9 months old, for example. As she gets older our decisions about childcare will adapt to suit her, us as a family, and my workload.

IMG_20131023_090129I make it all sound terribly tidy, but it has been difficult to adjust and make the right decision for us about childcare (fitting in with our finances, commitments, and values). I am getting used to studying in a new way. I’d love to have huge swathes of time in front of me when I sit down to work and I always imagined (pre-baby) that I would somehow treat a PhD like a full-time job, clocking on and clocking off and feeling a sense of accomplishment after a full day’s work (I know someone who more-or-less did this using the British Library as her “office”, so it’s not so farcical to envisage, honest!). Now I don’t have that luxury, nor much flexibility if I’m having an “off day” – I still need to crack on and make use of the time I have allocated.

As someone who hadn’t spent any time around families with small children before having one of my own, I didn’t quite fathom the fact that you can’t do very much else if you are looking after a baby. Okay, admittedly with the advent of smartphones you can read your emails and check social media while they are playing(!). But you can’t find enough time to concentrate long enough to write a professional-sounding email (especially not in another language!), you certainly can’t make or take a professional phone call, you probably can’t meet up with anyone without a child for a chat about anything serious, and you can’t read.

A sure sign of a non-parent is the question “but can’t you work during her naptime?”, and it’s forgiven as I might have assumed the same thing before. Nothing is guaranteed about baby sleep, and that’s what makes it an awful time to try and concentrate on some work (especially serious reading!). For a start, a nap might last half an hour or two hours, so it’s difficult to know whether to risk getting stuck into something if you might be disturbed at any moment. In addition, until very recently the baby would only sleep during the day a) in the pram [while we were out], b) in the sling, or c) cuddling on one of us. We couldn’t move her into the cot for the very high likelihood of waking her and having a grumpy, tired-yet-wide-awake baby to contend with. Thankfully now she mostly will nap in the cot, but it is impossible to “rely on” a nap – there are patterns, but babies are not predictable or consistent, which rather prevents me making plans to do something in particular “during her naptime” as I have no idea when, where, or for how long this might be!

[If you have read this far, I would love a comment below, just say hello! Nice to know who my readers are as I’ve only just started…]