Wednesday, 25 August 2010
Tove Jansson: summer and winter
My thanks to Minnie for putting me in touch with a highly popular man of blogging ideas, Norman Geras. He invited me to select a favourite book for his series of writers' choices, and after wandering in mazes for weeks I settled on one I happened to have just read. The piece is here, so I don't really need to explain or expand on the perfection of Tove Jansson's The Summer Book. I will at least reiterate that it tied in so hauntingly with my time on Bergman's magical Fårö, more images of which I take the liberty of scattering here.
What I would like to add is simply that since than I've also read Jansson's The True Deceiver, which Norman admires in equal measure. It's the dark shadow of The Summer Book, though since Jansson is interested in a spare approach to human truth, neither is black or white, and both are tough. This time it's winter on the Swedish coast, and snow coats everything in near silence. A strange woman goes out of her way to move in on a solitary old artist and provide a decent home for her simple brother Mats. But she isn't just the big bad wolf in a fairy tale, nor is the older lady the rabbit. These are human beings in all their mystery and inconsistency.
I'd like to leave the last word to Ali Smith, who writes so eloquent an introduction to The True Deceiver:
'Mats has no secrets. That's why he's so mysterious.' Jansson's own texts, works which seem so simple as to be near-throwaway, are always honed to perfection, given a lightness that proves deceptive, an ease of surface which, like a covering of ice over a lake, allows you a rare access to something a lot more feisty and profound. 'Rarely do books give as clear an impression as yours that they simply matured to the point of inevitability', Jansson's...Swedish publisher wrote to her when she was struggling with difficult work.