'Tis the Season to Read Tove Jansson

Sunday, January 23, 2011

My brother recently came back from a trip to visit his lovely girlfriend in Japan. Knowing that I was a Moomin fan he brought me back an array of Moomin memorabilia- apparently Moomins are pretty popular in Japan! So much to my delight I am now the proud owner of a Moomin pencil case, pass holder, biscuits, pen and notebook and can now reminisce on afternoons spent sat on the sofa after school watching my favourite cartoon- very happy chap indeed! The Moomins made Tove Jansson famous in her home country of Finland yet few people seem to be aware of the Swedish speaking Finnish author in Britain. Daughter of a sculptor and an illustrator, it seemed only right that she should go on to become a novelist, painter, illustrator and all round creatively inspiring person.

Anyway I am not just here to tell you of my fabulous new Moomin collection but also the brilliant work of Tove Jansson. In my second year of uni I finished my last essay early and settled down to enjoy my last few weeks in Devon before I was set to go home for the summer. Anyone who has been to Plymouth will know that the Hoe is the best spot to sit and enjoy a good book, so naturally I sauntered into the ever popular Waterstones and came out the proud owner of The Summer Book, little did I know that the author was indeed none other than Tove Jansson, the creator of my beloved childhood companions. It is by no means a lengthy book but it is a perfect snapshot of a Scandinavian summer, as a child spends her holidays on an idyllic island located in the gulf of Finland with her grandmother. I sometimes falter when approaching a translated novel as I have occasionally found sentences jar when removed from their mother tongue and this sometimes spoils the magic- as if the carefully constructed work of the author has been tainted: syllables  not co-operating with the mood or mythology lost in translation. However this has luckily not been the case with Jansson's literature, with both The Summer Book and A Winter Book, which I was to read a few months later. Jansson's protagonist, Sophia, is her niece and gave her inspiration for the innocence behind the isolated summer.

On the other hand, A Winter Book is a selection of best-loved stories taken from her adult fiction, I felt it had a slightly darker edge but the warmth from the author comes through as she depicts Scandinavian winters and the relationships formed through hardships. Her passages flow effortlessly and you are not so much pulled through the pages as gently guided and ushered to the next story. Phillip Pullman proclaimed that Jansson's fiction was "As smooth and odd and beautiful as sea-worn driftwood, as full of light and air as the Nordic summer". I loved the clarity of both books and they were passed from friends to family as I wanted everyone to read them and I think you should give them a go too. Read The Summer Book during the last winter months as the anticipation for spring and summer finally arrives, it will leave you feeling relaxed and peaceful, with an appetite for Scandinavian literature.

A merry looking novelist, with a rather fetching floral headpiece.
Visit http://www.moomin.com/tove/ for more info.

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