Hafni Says

Hafni Says

Helle Helle

Original title: Hafni fortæller
Publisher: Gutkind, 2023
Pages: 153 pages

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Hafni says … she’s getting divorced. She’s phoning the novel’s narrator from a lay-by. But it’s Hafni doing the talking.
She’s celebrating the divorce with a smørrebrød tour as she calls it – from Roskilde by way of Ringsted, Korsør, Nyborg, Svendborg, Faaborg and the Bøjden-Fynshav ferry to Gråsten, there to sample the South Jutland region’s renowned afternoon tea.
A tour that was meant to take a week. But ends up taking nearly a month.

Now Hafni’s phoning to talk about what went wrong along the way. She says:

I don’t want to be me.
I want to remake myself.
I don’t know how to remake myself.

Foreign rights

Czech: Paseka
Dutch: Querido
German: Penguin Verlag
Norwegian: Forlaget Oktober
Swedish: Norstedts

Hafni’s story makes you both laugh and cry. Full of situational comedy and consummate humour keen to the quirks of language. Full of sorrow and anxiety, simultaneously conveyed and assuaged by Helle’s marvellous writing (…) I envy anyone who is about to read this novel.

Politiken 6/6 hearts

Helle Helle surpasses herself with Hafni’s shame and screw-ups (…) Like few writers, Helle Helle manages to reproduce herself in such a way that each new novel buds from the one(s) before it, not as a clone or a one-to-one copy, but as one of those small wonders that life (biological and literary) every once in a while bestows upon us. A kind of literary-evolutionary self-propagation, a self-refining process of cell division, the art of writing at its very best.

Berlingske 6/6 stars

Helle Helle’s new novel moves elegantly between deep tragedy and wonderful language-savvy comedy (…) The reader swings between savouring the sweetness of the novel’s pinpoint prose and suffering with its hapless main character. One chuckles, and yet is racked to the soul when together with Hafni one ‘alight(s) by mistake in the middle of nowhere’.


Helle Helle distills the art of understatement …


Helle Helle’s Hafni is perfectly perplexed (…) Every sentence is replete and tightly drawn; restrained and controlled (…) [Hafni’s] cleverly turned befuddlement could sound trying, and Hafni herself says: I don’t want to be me. I want to remake myself. But thank goodness, the novel, the smørrebrød tour, quivers with her liberating embarrassment, which is not despondent but deft, precise, drily humorous.


(…) let me highlight the splinteringly tight mini-chapters, (again) the strongest (the most well-turned, the funniest, the cleverest) short prose written by anyone on these shores …

Lars Bukdahl

Helle Helle surpasses herself with this funny, dark and masterly novel.


Helle Helle

Helle helle 4, 2020, foto (c) mikkel carl nærmere torso
Photo by Mikkel Carl

Helle Helle is a graduate of the Danish Academy of Creative Writing and the author of a number of novels, as well as two collections of short fiction. She is one of scandinavia’s most original writers, with a career spanning almost three decades, from her debut Example of Life (1993) to her most recent novel, Hafni Says, published to rave reviews in September 2023.
Helle Helle’s breakthrough novel,Rødby-Puttgarden, was awarded the Danish Critics’ Prize for Literature, since when she has received her native country’s highest literary accolades, including the Per Olov Enquist Prize, the Golden Laurels of the Danish Booksellers’ Association, the Grand Prize of the Danish Academy, and the Holberg Medal. Her books have been translated into 22 languages.

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