domingo, 4 de diciembre de 2011

Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow

Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow [Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne] (The Harvill Press, 1997)
by Peter Høeg [translated from the Danish by F. David]
Denmark, 1992

If you just finished season one of the juicy Danish TV series The Killing and are now looking for another Copenhagen-centered crime drama to keep your genre buzz going, this novel might do the trick in a pinch.  Otherwise, I'm not so sure.  "Readable" but increasingly implausible crime caper that essentially prostitutes its complex, anti-social title character--a bicultural 37-year old Inuit/Danish loner prone to making trenchant observations about how Greenlandic culture fits in with the post-colonial West in general and post-colonial Denmark in particular--by pimping her out in the service of a not particularly happening storyline which begins with a potentially interesting investigation into a neighbor child's mysterious death and ends with a laughable adventure involving meteorites, otherworldly parasites and mad scientist Bond villains.  Noted hack/annoying overactor Tom Wilkinson appears in the late '90s film adaptation of Smilla's Sense of Snow, so it's possible that the movie--now long forgotten by me--is even more of a mixed bag than the book.  In other news, spoiler alert!  (

Peter Høeg

11 comentarios:

  1. Isn't there a bit of an anti-Snow theme going on on your blog? Chuckle. Tsis was on my TBR pile since years. Not high up, luckily or it would have tujmbled down brutally by now. I think I'll soon send it on a trip with its Turkish namesake.
    The movie isn't all that bad. It's got Gabriel Byrne and Jürgen Vogel in it.
    Now, seriously, this is what you read instead of The Silent Angel? I'm hurt.

  2. I think I liked this book, and the movie, much more than you did, but you're right about the closing section. It's too bad, really. The characters and story line that are established in the first 2/3's could have led to a classic work of crime fiction.

  3. I can't remember much of the specifics of the book, as I read it so very long ago, but I do remember enjoying it. Far more than the film. And, far more than any Steig Larsson book I've read. The other Scandinavian crime writers I've read, and for the most part enjoyed, are Jo Nesbo and Jussi Adler-Olsen. In case you didn't get enough drama/action/thrill with Smilla.

  4. Come to think of it, one of the aspects of this book I liked the best was the way Winter was described. Much like Paumk's book Snow. I remember the mood of the season more acutely than the plot in both novels.

  5. That's a lot of prostituting and pimping for a book holding only marginal interest at best for me. I will consider this an invitation to pass, friend. Also, just can't do children in peril. And never saw the movie either. Wow. So in trying to strike a connection, I will say, in reference to Caroline's comment, that I do like Gabriel Byrne quite a lot.

  6. I liked the book ,but was let down by the movie ,I ve another of his I picked up ages ago unread I may just try and get to it over xmas as I ve not read a book from denmark since I started the blog ,all the best stu

  7. I thought everyone loved this book. I thought it was sssooo boring, although the premise had me greatly intrigued.

  8. I read "Smilla's Sense of Snow" when it came out, primarily because I have a thing for novels with winter landscapes. But - ouf - all I can even remember of the novel is that it was a great disappointment, even in terms of descriptions of wintry scenes. I'd rather have read about just the snow.

  9. I had this one in mind for my stop in Denmark during my EU Book Tour.
    I'd better find something else.



  10. *Caroline: I can't really defend the Høeg vs. Böll decision, but LOL about the anti-snow trend! I actually thought about that while writing the post--however, this snow book is much more palatable from an entertainment standpoint. No doubt about that.

    *James: I liked the Smilla character's portrayal for most of the book, and I felt that her thoughts on the intersection between Danish society and Greenland provided lots of food for thought without being too intrusive story-wise. However, the transformation of the novel from a nonconformist mystery into a bad adventure thriller really disappointed. Too bad, definitely.

    *Bellezza: Part of the pre-reading of the book appeal to me was that this might be a crime story that was presented as something other than a traditional crime narrative. I liked the social commentary and the descriptions of the wintry settings well enough, but I thought the book turned into a better-written Dan Brown type thing about halfway in. Farfetched and not very satisfying overall. Still making my mind up about how I feel about the Scandinavian crime scene, though, since I've had some hits and misses early on.

    *Frances: Would it have been more heavyhanded if I had changed "do the trick in a pinch" to some sort of a tricking reference? Ha ha, I toyed with that idea momentarily! Gabriel Byrne is a cool actor, but I'd certainly invite you to pass on both the movie and the book unless you're looking for a viewing experience or a read worthy of a C-plus grade at best (I'm grading generously today, mind you).

    *Stu: As someone who didn't really care for either the book or the movie, I'm finding it interesting to see how all over the place fans of one or the other medium are in these comments. I usually prefer the books to the movie versions myself, though.

    *Isabella: I was probably less bored than you for much of the novel, but I agree that the premise was much more intriguing than the final product. Quel dommage!

    *Scott: "Ouf," indeed--you said it, pal! I was OK with the snow/winter stuff for the most part, but 410 pages of that was a lot of padding to find a Bond bogeyman at the end.

    *Emma: Høeg writes OK, but the trajectory of this plot left a lot to be desired. Having had little prior exposure to Danish literature, please let me know if you find a worthwhile substitute for this author or novel on your reading tour. Cheers!

  11. A bit late for the party here. I had mixed feelings about this one too: enjoyed the first 1/3, had a big "WTF?" reaction to the rest. Couldn't figure out what the hell was going on and got kinda tired of a Mary Sue protagonist who knew everything about everything. Was very interested in the interaction between Greenlanders and the Danish, however. Some Europeans like to dismiss racism as an "American problem" but that's far from the case.