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Peter Høeg

Peter Høeg, b.1957, had great success at the beginning of the 1990s with Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne (Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow, 1992), a thriller critical of civilisation and portraying a woman's schismatic relationship to European and Eskimo culture. The novel, the tone of which ranges from cool analysis to compassion and poetry, has been translated into a vast number of languages and filmed by Bille August.

Peter Høeg
Foto: Poul Rasmussen

Before this comet-like ascent, Høeg had already established himself as one of the major writers of contemporary Danish fiction, with the novel Forestilling om det 20. århundrede (The History of Danish Dreams, 1988), a magical realistic presentation of Danish dreams and notions throughout a century, and with Fortællinger om natten (Tales of the Night, 1990), nine stories written in a style reminiscent of Karen Blixen. Each of these centers on one of the classical forms of art or sciences; a motif common to them all is love and its conditions.

Høeg's critical view of culture and his ability to understand sympathetically lives that go wrong appears in his fourth novel, De måske egnede (Borderliners, 1993), at one and the same time an analysis of time as a subjective phenomenon and a moving description of a boy fighting to avoid being crushed by the school system.

The sceptical approach to the world of science in Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne is echoed in Kvinden og aben (The Woman and the Ape, 1996). This novel examines the sense of fulfilment felt by an alcoholic upper-class woman who saves a monkey of a hitherto unknown species from the clutches of the scientists.

The main characters in the latest three books written by Peter Høeg all inhabit the shadowy area on the periphery of normality and social structure: Miss Smilla who stems from an ethnic minority and finds it impossible to fit in, the boy at the bottom of the social hierarchy in De måske egnede, and the ape in Kvinden og aben, more human than the human beings themselves. The woman, the child and the animal are used symbolically by the author to remind us that there is something fundamentally wrong with our modern-day existence.

Peter Høeg's imaginative and uncompromising examination of the problems in our culture, and of our unsatisfactory grasp of love, the sexes, money and power, sets him apart as a great Danish and international writer.

May Schack, Gyldendal Leksikon

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