Skall letter No. 16

Frederikke Mikines, a life with books

Dear Friends,

When the year is drawing towards the end, it is time for thoughts and memories, and maybe to consider where you are, in life. It is time to tell the people you care about that you love them, and maybe even find time to read the book you have been hoping to read for some time.  This letter is about finding peace and inspiration in physical books. Our friend Frederikke is, despite her young age, the "soon to be" mother of three, and she simply loves to read. She loves to bury herself in books.

Though not so many will find reading books important and actually spend time on it, today. But for Frederikke it is an essential part of who she is and it is her hope that she will pass on the passion for books to her own children and those close to her.  We spend a lovely Christmas morning in Frederikke's home, surrounded by the family's books, the dog Charlie and her two children, Håkon seven years old and Ingrid four years old. Frederikke (33) is editor-in-chief of the backlist at Gyldendal. She issues new editions of "old" books.

Her job is very much about giving new life to old publications from Gyldendal's backlist, accumulated through more than 250 years, in the right way and with the right timing. It is a task positioned very much in the field of tension between current trends and classic culture history - in her own words: "it's a quite cool cocktail".  Books have always been an important part of Frederikke's life. From her early childhood, her parents read books without any pictures, to her and her sister and especially from her father's side of the family she was introduced to arts from an early age - both literature, acting and visual arts.

“My father read the works of Homer to us, and took us to the ballet, the opera, musicals, experimental theatres and art museums throughout our childhood. I was only four, when I saw "Napoli" the first time at The Royal Danish Theatre. And I remember when I was ten and attended a rather weird circus theatre covered in hash mists at Christiania. My mother read “Little House on the Prairie” when we were only one and three years old, and according to her we loved it. I'm quite sure it was a success because she enjoyed it so much herself. For me, literature will always be the art that is close at hand, and I love the simple thing of grabbing a book and immediately have access to the ultimate cultural experience.”

Frederikke is surrounded by books all day long, and she will do her best to pass on the love for books to those close to her. 

"I do of course try my best to pass on the passion for the good stories to my children by reading to them on daily basis and make sure that they have a copious and versatile access to readings of all kind. I love that my son has fell in love with my dad´s old Tintin cartoons that he really does loose himself in at the moment. And it makes me really happy when my 4 year old daughter by herself chooses quality literature for children like Marianne Iben Hansen, from the book-shelves. The best is when my children suddenly start to talk about something we have read together, even though we are in the middle of something else. At such moments I know that the books live inside them and that there is a big chance that they will also enjoy reading when they get older and know how to read themselves. Reading is a rather private activity, but at the same time reading is something that really does allow us to connect socially as persons. Fortunately, my husband also loves to read and we are indeed able to share a laugh about a book several years after we read it, or still share a sigh when thinking about a genius or touching reading experience. This is the most magical thing about books - when they tie us together."

With books being such a big part of Frederikke's life, and with people around her leaning more and more towards the digital platforms, we have to ask her, if she thinks that "the physical book" is endangered.

“I do not believe that reading literature is threatened. Right now there is a lot of focus on the digital formats, which is good as new formats like e- and especially audio books create new readers. But it is true that we need a balance in the market moving from a time when books were only physical material and to a reality where books can be enjoyed in a number of different ways. I believe we go towards a world where physical books are refined more and more as a physical object, simply because they have to offer more and other things than the digital formats. And I like that idea. I believe that some books will be "book shelve books", while other books will serve better as digital books. It means that the craftsmanship and design of books will play an important role for the future of physical books, and I like that very much.”

3 books for Christmas. Which book would you give to your mother for Christmas?  

"I would give my mother Lev Tolstoy “War and Peace”. It has just been launched in a beautiful edition and it's the kind of novel that you simply have to read, some time.  I will give my sister Suzanne Brøgger ”Fri os fra kærligheden” and ”Creme Fraiche”. We went to see the show at Teater Republique together in the fall and it encouraged us to soak ourselves in the works of Suzanne Brøgger.  My girl friends should have the little books with sun signs. There is one for each zodiac sign and they are really fun to read together, revealing all the different types of personality and the magic of discovering that they do most often fit very well. It is a really funny way of starting conversations on each other's personality - conversations that may suddenly become more deep and touching."  Which book do you read at the moment? "Shahnush Parsipur ”Kvinder uden mænd”. Brilliant little classic that everyone should read!"   

Thank you Frederikke for being so inspiring. 

Merry Christmas, 

Julie & Marie Skall