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Clubs and associations — The KU Book Club meets up every other Sunday in the old library on Fiolstræde street in central Copenhagen to exchange views on the 100 pages of literature they have read since their last meeting. Staff, international, and Danish students are welcome.
»I haven’t been at the last two book club meetings, because I’ve just been too busy,« says a law student on the way through the main door before today’s meeting in the book club.
But that’s OK. Because the book club meetings are flexible, when members meet every other Sunday, according to volunteer Oliver Overgaard Mortensen, who is a student of medicine.
»It’s okay if you can’t come once. Then you just jump back in later. We try to keep the book club open and free, so you can read different genres, and do not feel tied to a specific book,« he says.
KU BOOK CLUB
Who: Anyone affiliated to the University of Copenhagen (UCPH)
Where: University library on Fiolstræde street
When: Every other Sunday
So what now: Read more and sign up here.
At a large wooden table in the middle of the library, the law student quickly falls into conversation with a couple of the other approximately 30 participants who have turned up for today’s meeting. And even though there are many participants, the group looks lilliputian in the large, almost ecclesiastic, library hall, which smells of a mixture of freshly brewed coffee and old dusty books.
Everyone speaks softly as they supply themselves with coffee and cake to fight Sunday fatigue. The conversations are both in Danish and English.
Then Freja Gyldenstrøm, the coordinator of the book club, takes the floor:
»I have put six signs with the different books here. Each group takes their signs, finds each other, and sits down together. I know that three groups are finishing their books today, so I make a list of book proposals. If you have any ideas, please don’t hesitate. And apart from that, have a good time!«
The signs represent the six genres in the book club right now. The most popular genres are currently thriller, crime and Danish literature.
The groups come together, and soon laughter, and the exchange of opinions, echoes between the bookshelves in the hall. Neither daylight nor street life seeps in through the stained-glass windows from Fiolstræde.
»The library is a gem, and the location perfectly matches the book club’s vision of bringing together students across disciplines, as the library does not belong to a particular faculty,« says Oliver Overgaard Mortensen.
The vision for the book club is to counteract the divisions between faculties and study programmes at UCPH, according to Freja Gyldenstrøm. It is the Studenterhuset that, in collaboration with UCPH, is behind the project, and they brought Freja Gyldenstrøm in as coordinator.
She explains that she found further inspiration for the book club in the study environment of the University of York in England, where she was on exchange. She experienced a much greater sense of community between the teaching staff and the students across several disciplines than what she had experienced at UCPH. It is quite normal, for example, for departments to invite all students and teaching staff to gatherings where they talk about research topics, drink a bit of wine and nibble some cheese.
The big divide at UCPH is something that Oliver Overgaard Mortensen also sees as a student:
»I study third semester medicine, and I’m always at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences buildings at Panum, and never on City or North Campus. The students keep themselves within their own bubble.«
The members of the book club are so far mostly bachelor’s, master’s and exchange students.
»But staff at UCPH are also welcome. It would be fantastic to get some instructors to join the club,« Oliver Overgaard Mortensen adds.
That all faculties, with the exception of the small theology faculty, are represented, is important for the discussions.
»I have just read ‘Before I Go to Sleep’ by P. J. Watson. It’s about a woman who, every time she falls asleep, forgets everything that has happened in the last 24 hours. I saw it from a medical perspective, and reckoned that you would find out that her husband had poisoned her. One of the others in the group works with MRI scans, and she spoke about how you could document the memory loss, and the difference between our conscious and subconscious memories. A third member of the group is a student of computer science and writes books in his spare time, and he pointed out the book’s disposition, and how it was structured,« says Oliver Overgaard Mortensen. He says that seven book club members decided last summer to move out of the book club oasis in the library and into Copenhagen’s gardens:
»We just had so much fun that we had to continue during the summer holidays, when the book club otherwise took a break. We met for picnics in the Kongens Have and Frederiksberg Have gardens and at home with each other because we couldn’t stop. That summer has been one of the highlights from my period of study so far.«
At 4:30 pm, the groups have discussed for about two hours, and the meeting of the day is coming to an end.
Freja Gyldenstrøm helps out the groups that need a new book to read. The Danish-speaking group is looking for a book that is neither too long nor too difficult, because there are people whose Danish is their second language who also want to join in. They find out that they should start on ‘Urværk’ by Ane Riel.
People gradually slip away. Freja Gyldenstrøm and Oliver Overgaard Mortensen clean up before they make one final plea:
»It is not only literature geeks involved. Half of our current members have never been part of a book club before. So come along and join us! You can always become a member!«