Smilla's Sense of Snow and The Fictional World of Archives

Original Novel Title: Smilla's Sense of Snow

Author: Peter Høeg; translated by Tiina Nunnally

Publisher: Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 1993

Originally published in Denmark in 1992 under the title Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne.

All quotations are from the hardcover Canadian edition.

Høeg's first novel to appear in English features a Danish-Inuit woman who doggedly tracks down the circumstances surrounding the death of her young neighbor who falls to death off a roof.

Among the most revealing sources, according to the dustjacket, are "the secret files of the Danish company [Cryolite Corporation of Denmark] responsible for extracting most of Greenland's mineral wealth."

She locates a director of the company who informs her the company is shutting down and its files are being transferred to the national archives (p. 54). Before that happens, Smilla manages with the help of a former employee to gain access to the corporate archives (p. 82-83):

   The first room in the archives is the entire basement under one wing of the building. A low-ceilinged room with countless wooden shelves, countless quantities of ledger paper wrapped in brown paper, and filled with the air that always hovers over vast paper deserts, enervating and drained of all moisture.
   The second room is perpendicular to the first. It has the same kind of shelving. But it also contains archive cabinets with flat drawers of topographical maps. A hanging file with hundreds of maps, some of them clamped onto brass rods. A locked wooden cabinet, like a coffin ten yards long. That must be where the drilling cores sleep. ...
   These archives, on the other hand, leave something to be desired. There are no signs on the shelves. There are no numbers, dates, or letters on the spines of the filed material. ...

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Feature Film Release Date: 1997

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CONTENTS: The Fictional World of Archives

Suggested by Katy Hughes, 1997.09; submitted by David Mattison, 1998.01.20. Updated 1999.07.06.