Danish Language Blog

For the Love of Books Posted by on Jun 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

Tucked away in an upstairs department with a backyard entrance accessible from Klostergade in central Århus, a lady and a black cat make a living selling bøger (books) in French, Spanish, Italian, English and German. I met them for a chat.

What’s your story?

My name is Geneviève Munck, I’m French and came to Århus in 1970, as I got married to a Dane. A year later I started working in an academic bookstore. I’ve always had a great interest in books. (An uncle of mine in France is a bookseller too.) I’ve got a daugther, a grandchild and a cat – that’s my life, I guess!

What’s the name of the cat?

She’s called Hortence with an H!

How do you experience Danes’ relationship to books?

It’s funny – everybody reads in Denmark, but almost nobody reads a lot. In France there are few people reading books, but those who do, read much more than you do here!
I think people read less literature now because of all the information they’re forced to relate to at work or school. You keep getting mails till your head starts boiling, and you’ve got such an easy access to all kinds of information that the biggest problem has become how to skip all the superfluous bits. When that’s done, you haven’t got much energy left to read.

How do you experience Danes’ relationship to foreign languages?

Danes think that the whole world speaks English. But that’s not true! I’ve been to a town in Italy with Danes who were suprised that the locals did not speak English. French, on the other hand, worked just fine.
I have no problem with Danes viewing English as the only language worth learning. But it does bother me when Danes constantly use English expressions in their own language. Some people tell me that Danish is a poorer language with fewer words. I just ask them to explain why Ordbog over det danske sprog (Dictionary of the Danish Language) contains more than 27 tomes! It’s the Danes’ own fault if they don’t use the Danish words.

 What do you keep at your bedside table?

I haven’t got a bedside table! (She laughs.) But I’m always busy reading books in French, so I can tell people what’s worth reading. When you don’t have a lot of time, it is important not to waste it. In my opinion, a bookseller should be a kind of filter.

Can you recommend a book to people interested in Danish culture?

I don’t know a Danish novel that just explains everything. If a book is trying to explain something, it’s just a guide, not a real book. When I came here, I read the things that people were reading back then: Martin A. Hansen, Johannes V. Jensen. Unfortunately, I haven’t read any modern Danish literature, since I’ve got to read in French. With 100, 150 books a year there is a limit to what you can achieve.

What’s the best thing about being a bookseller?

That you get to read a lot of books!

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About the Author: Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.


  1. Bjørn A. Bojesen:

    FYI, Geneviève’s got a website at http://www.gmibs.dk