Published in Denmark as Froken Smillas fornemmelse for sne in 1992, and appearing in translation as Smilla’s Sense of Snow in the United States and as Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow in England in 1993, Peter Høeg’s novel quickly moved to the top of the bestseller lists in Europe and the United States. Although Høeg had enjoyed modest commercial and critical success in Denmark with his earlier book Forestilling om det tyvende arhundrede (1988), published as The History of Danish Dreams in 1995 in the United States, it was his third novel that rocketed Høeg into the international limelight. The book has been published in more than thirty countries, was named the 1993 book of the year by both Time and Entertainment Weekly, spent twenty-six weeks on the New York Times best-seller list, and was made into a film by Danish director Bille August in 1997. In addition to this remarkable popular success, the novel has won favor among literary critics, who note Høeg’s careful attention to setting and culture. As Thomas Satterlee notes, “In many of his novels Høeg explores Danish society by deliberately including characters from a wide range of social classes.”
Smilla’s Sense of Snow is notable for its treatment of Danish culture, Greenlandic culture, and the inevitable clash of values brought about by the shift from a colonial to postcolonial relationship between the two. In addition, Høeg examines that strange land of the person caught between cultures in the characters of Smilla and Isaiah. Finally, Høeg plays with conventions and expectations in his use and subversion of the murder mystery/suspense novel genre. Smilla’s Sense of Snow is a complicated and rich novel, a fast-paced thriller, a love story, an anthropological exploration, and a philosophical treatise all in one book. Høeg’s accomplishment with this novel has moved him to the top of the list of Danish writers publishing at the beginning of the twenty-first century.