Monday, January 5, 2015

First Lines Second Thoughts — Smilla's Sense of Snow


First Lines Second Thoughts is a look at the first lines of well known literary works. On second thought, do these opening words stand alone as poetry? Today, as the nation braces for another deep freeze we look at a book that we know from the 1997 film as Smilla's Sense of Snow.

Peter Høeg's Danish thriller was originally published in his native tongue as, Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne. The English-language version was first known as Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow. Published in 1992.


It’s freezing
— an extraordinary 0 Fahrenheit —
and its snowing,
and in the language that is no longer mine,
the snow is qanik
big, almost weightless crystals
falling in clumps
and covering the ground
with a layer of pulverized white frost.


—  Peter Høeg


Peter Høeg's second novel is notable for having a female protagonist, the titular Smilla Qaaviqaaq Jaspersen, long before we heard of a girl with a dragon tattoo. The novel also delves into Denmark's colonial past while ascertaining the death in Copenhagen of an Innu boy from Greenland. Smilla's Sense of Snow was shortlisted for an Edgar Award upon its publication in 1992.