By Land and By Sea

Dorthe Nors brings us to the North Sea Coast

Illustration by Signe Parkins from <em>A Line in the World</em> (Graywolf Books)
Illustration by Signe Parkins from A Line in the World (Graywolf Books)

The line between land and water can take on so many moods: romance, danger, playfulness, despair; calm, or the storm that follows. In her first collection of nonfiction, A Line in the World, the Danish writer Dorthe Nors spends a year traversing the North Sea Coast, from where it meets the Baltic at Skagen, across the King River, and down to the nebulous Wadden Sea and Amsterdam. She describes her own life on the water, as well as the lives of others from the near and distant past. The Jutish ship that got stranded on the Vedersø dunes, spilling its cargo of tulips to bloom the next spring and leaving its captain to wed a local girl. The now-extinct matriarchy of Sønderho on the Island of Fanø, where women ran the village while waiting for their husbands to return from sea—or not. The empty space where Skarre Cliff used to jut into the water, and her father’s expression as he watched it collapse on television in 1978. In these 14 essays, Nors invites us into an inner landscape that can be as changeable as the borderlands she describes.

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Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


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