Readers can travel through book discussions

Readers can travel through book discussions Vermillion area readers can learn about life in Northern Europe by participating in the South Dakota Humanities Council Reading Series at the Vermillion Public Library.

The first discussion takes place on Sunday, Feb. 11, with second and third meetings on Feb. 25 and March 18.

Jamie Sullivan from Mount Marty College will lead the sessions. The discussions will cover Kristen Lavransdatter: The Wreath by Sigrid Undset and a collection of short stories and novella called Anecdotes of Destiny and Ehrengard by Isak Dinesen.

Interested readers can sign up for the discussions at the Vermillion Public Library, 18 Church Street. The sessions are free, but participants may purchase the books and study guide for $10.

Kristen Lavransdatter: The Wreath is set in 14th century Norway to describe the courtship between a headstrong young woman and a dangerously charming man. The novel was first published after WWI when political and religious anxieties revealed in the story were very much part of contemporary life. In fact, the story is so universal, that some have even claimed it as the most widely read novel.

Undset's characters mirror her own struggle for religious identity with a world that seems to value self-gratification which may speak to today's readers.

The second book, Anecdotes of Destiny and Ehrengard, is a collection of short stories and a novella written by a Danish author who used pseudonyms to disguise her gender. As a storyteller who influenced such American writers as Truman Campote and Carson McCullers, Dinesen drew inspiration for her tales from the Bible, the Arabian Nights and the works of Homer.

Among her most famous short stories in the collection is "Babette's Feast," the tale of a mysterious Frenchwoman who seeks refuge with spinster daughters of a stern, Danish minister. Babette prepares a sumptuous feast for a deeply religious sect thereby introducing them to the true essence of grace.

The novella Ehrengard, tells the tale of an artist's seduction of a beautiful young girl in an Arabian Nights-like fashion.

The study guide that accompanies the books was written by Carol Leibiger, a German professor living in Vermillion, who studied Dinesen in Denmark and carefully researched Undset to give a valuable perspective to this part of "Knowing the World Through Reading" discussions.

The program is sponsored by the South Dakota Humanities Council and the Vermillion Public Library.

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