Search results for "tove jansson"

Towards the empty page

30 September 1991 | Archives online, Authors

This autumn, a Japanese-made animated series about the inhabitants of Moomin valley will be seen on television screens across Europe and the United States; a range of merchandise including Moomin ice-cream, biscuits, back-packs and mugs is already available. As Moomin Valley goes commercial, Suvi Ahola examines in her essay the psychoses, sexual ambiguity and concern for personal freedom that lie at the heart of Tove Jansson’s children’s books

A quiet Sunday afternoon, some time in the first decade of this century, in one of the massive, handsome art nouveau tenement blocks of the Katajanokka district of Helsinki.

On the second floor of Luotsikatu Street 4 B two children are playing. The girl, two years older, advises her friend, a little boy, how to walk across the pile carpet in such a way that the snakes in the pattern won’t get him. Clutching a large handkerchief, the boy advances across the carpet in tiny steps, arms outstretched. The carpet’s brown garlands – the snakes – begin to writhe voraciously. Try and jump, the girl shouts. More…

The painter who wrote

6 October 2014 | Non-fiction, Reviews

tovebrev.skyddsomslag.inddBrev från Tove Jansson
Urval och kommentarer Boel Westin & Helen Svensson
[Letters from Tove Jansson, selected and commented by Boel Westin & Helen Svensson]
Helsingfors: Schildts & Söderströms, 2014. 491 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-951-52-3408-7
€34.90
In Finnish (translated by Jaana Nikula):
Kirjeitä Tove Janssonilta
ISBN 978-951-52-3409-4

Nothing could be more mistaken than to describe Tove Jansson as ‘Moominmamma’. In her statements she was both cutting and complex – conflict-ridden and full of paradoxes. And she was nobody’s mamma.

Tove Jansson (1914–2001) became world famous (especially ‘big’ in Japan) with her Moomins – the characters of her illustrated books for children (1945–1970) – and her books for adults are a part of her work that is at least as interesting. Her training, ambition and artistic passion were, however, focused on painting.

Anyone who has read Boel Westin’s excellent biography –  now available in English, Tove Jansson: Life, Art, Words‘knows’ all this, but to experience it through Jansson’s own letters, in an alternating process of reflection and recreation, brings the problems close to the reader in quite a different way: one that is shocking, but also deeply human. More…

Hip hip hurray, Moomins!

22 October 2010 | This 'n' that

Partying in Moomin Valley: Moomintroll (second from right) dancing through the night with the Snork Maiden (from Tove Jansson’s second Moomin book, Kometjakten, Comet in Moominland, 1946)

The Moomins, those sympathetic, rotund white creatures, and their friends in Moomin Valley celebrate their 65th birthday in 2010.

Tove Jansson published her first illustrated Moomin book, Småtrollen och den stora översvämningen (‘The little trolls and the big flood’) in 1945. In the 1950s the inhabitants of Moomin Valley became increasingly popular both in Finland and abroad, and translations began to appear – as did the first Moomin merchandise in the shops.

Jansson later confessed that she eventually had begun to hate her troll – but luckily she managed to revise her writing, and the Moomin books became more serious and philosophical, yet retaining their delicious humour and mild anarchism. The last of the nine storybooks, Moominvalley in November, appeared in 1970, after which Jansson wrote novels and short stories for adults.

Tove Jansson with her creations (Photo: www.moomin.com/tove/travel, 1993)

Tove Jansson (1914–2001) was a painter, caricaturist, comic strip artist, illustrator and author of books for both children and adults. Her Moomin comic strips were published in the daily paper the London Evening News between 1954 and 1974; from 1960 onwards the strips were written and illustrated by Tove’s brother Lars Jansson (1926–2000).

Tove’s niece, Sophia Jansson (born 1962) now runs Moomin Characters Ltd as its artistic director and majority shareholder. (The company’s latest turnover was 3,6 million euros).

For the ever-growing fandom of Jansson there is a delightful biography of Tove (click ‘English’) and her family on the site, complete with pictures, video clips and texts.

The world now knows Moomins; the books have been translated into 40 languages. The  London Children’s Film Festival in October 2010 featured the film Moomins and the Comet Chase in 3D, with a soundtrack by the Icelandic artist Björk. An exhibition celebrating 65 years of the Moomins (from 23 October to 15 January 2011) at the Bury Art Gallery in Greater Manchester presented Jansson’s illustrations of Moominvalley and its inhabitants.

In association with several commercial partners in the Nordic countries Moomin Characters launched a year-long campaign collecting funds to be donated to the World Wildlife Foundation for the protection of the Baltic Sea. Tove Jansson lived by the Baltic all her life –  she spent most of her summers on a small barren island called Klovharu – and the sea featured strongly in her books for both children and adults.

To write, to draw

18 December 2014 | This 'n' that

Self-portrait: Tove Jansson with her creations. Picture: @Moomin Characters

Self-portrait: Tove Jansson with her creations. Picture: @Moomin Characters™

A new Finnish biography of Tove Jansson (1914–2001) was published in 2013; the artist and creator of the Moomins has been celebrated in 2014 in her centenary year. Tove Jansson. Tee tytötä ja rakasta by Tuula Karjalainen was published in English this autumn, translated by David McDuff, under the title Tove Jansson: Work and Love (Penguin Global, Particular Books).

The book was reviewed by The Economist newspaper on 22 November. Unsurprisingly, according to the review, Jansson was more interesting as a writer than as a painter:

’Jansson always saw herself first as a serious painter. She exhibited frequently in Finland, and won awards and commissions for large public murals. Her reputation there as a writer lagged far behind the rest of the world. Ms Karjalainen is a historian of Finnish art, and although she covers Jansson’s writing, it is the paintings that really interest her. This is a pity. Jansson was a more interesting writer than a painter, and her life sheds much light on her particular quality as a storyteller.’

Whereas Karjalainen concentrates on Jansson’s painting, another biography of Jansson, by the Swedish literary scholar Boel Westin (reviewed here) focuses on Jansson as a writer. Here, you can find a selection of Tove Jansson’s art.

A quotation from The Economist‘s review: ‘Her use of Moomins to defy the war is characteristic. Everywhere in her fiction there is the same sense of deflection and indirection. She hated ideologies, messages, answers. And it somehow fits that she fell in love with both men and women. Ambivalence was a kind of comfort to her. As one of her characters says, “Everything is very uncertain, and that is what makes me calm.’

Tove Jansson’s versatile brilliance as an artist, we think, is at its best in the way she combined illustration and text in her Moomin stories. Their (great) visual and philosophical value lies in the praise of freedom and independence of the mind: for everyone, young or old.

Letters from Tove

6 October 2014 | Extracts, Non-fiction

Tove Jansson went to  Stockholm to study art when she was just 16. A letter to her friend Elisabeth Wolff, from November 1932

Early days: Tove Jansson went to Stockholm to study art when she was just 16. A letter to her friend Elisabeth Wolff, from November 1932

Artist and author Tove Jansson (1914–2001) is known abroad for her Moomin books for children and fiction for adults. A large selection of her letters – to family, friends and lovers – was published for the first time in September. In these extracts she writes to her best friend Eva Konikoff who moved to the US in 1941, to her lover, Atos Wirtanen, journalist and politician, and to her life companion of 45 years, artist Tuulikki Pietilä.
Brev från Tove Jansson (selected and commented by Boel Westin and Helen Svensson; Schildts & Söderströms, 2014; illustrations from the book) introduced by Pia Ingström

7.10.44. H:fors. [Helsinki]

exp. Tove Jansson. Ulrikaborgg. A Tornet. Helsingfors. Finland. Written in swedish.
to: Miss Eva Konikoff. Mr. Saletan. 70 Fifty Aveny. New York City. U.S.A.

Dearest Eva!

Now I can’t help writing to you again – the war [Finnish Continuation War, from 1941 to 19 September 1944] is over, and perhaps gradually it will be possible to send letters to America. Next year, maybe. But this letter will have to wait until then – even so, it will show that I was thinking of you. Curiously enough, Konikova, all these years you have been more alive for me than any of my other friends. I have talked to you, often. And your smiling Polyfoto has cheered me up and comforted me and has also taken part in the fortunate and wonderful things that have happened. I remembered your warmth, your vitality and your friendship and felt happy! At first I wrote frequently, every week – but after about a year most of it was returned to me. I wrote more after that, but the letters were often so gloomy that I didn’t feel like saving them. Now there are so absurdly many things I have to talk to you about that I don’t know where to begin. Koni, if only I’d had you here in my grand new studio and could have hugged you. After these recent years there is no human being I have longed for more than you. More…

Studies in obsession

30 June 1981 | Archives online, Authors

Tove Jansson. Photo: Hans Gedda

Tove Jansson. Photo: Hans Gedda

From Tove Jansson’s first short book, Småtrollen och den stora överstämningen (‘The little troll and the great flood’, 1945) to her latest volume of short stories, Dockskåpet (‘The doll’s house’, 1978 – see extracts 1 & 2), there is a great step, and few of the readers of that first children’s story could conceivably have foreseen just how far its writer was to go. Since her start in 1945 Tove Jansson’s reputation as the originator of the Moomintroll stories has become worldwide, and in one sense her own creation must have become a burden to her, not least because many of the themes which have emerged have been difficult to encompass within the Moomin framework. It is not easy for a writer who has created a reputation as a children’s author to break through what might be termed the ‘adult barrier’, but Tove Jansson has shown herself determined to do so, and with Dockskåpet she must surely have overcome any lingering doubts her readers may have had. Here is the adult writer, firmly in control of her art and delving into subjects far removed from the child mentality. More…

Jansson’s temptations

27 November 2009 | This 'n' that

Tove Jansson (ca. 1950)

Tove Jansson (c. 1950)

If Tove Jansson’s Moomin books are, as we certainly believe here at Books from Finland, strangely little known in the wider world, the same is even truer of her books for adults.

Incredibly, the Moomins celebrate their 65th birthday in 2010, and have been translated into 40 languages. Jansson (1914–2001) wrote her last Moomin book – there are nine altogether – in 1970. Over the last thirty years of her life, she also wrote a total of 11 volumes – novels and short stories – for grown-ups. (Books from Finland published stories from many of them as they appeared. They will become available again as our digitisation project gets underway; meanwhile, here’s a story from Dockskåpet [‘The doll’s house’, 1978].)

Back out there in the wider world, the tiny, Hampstead-based press Sort Of Books has since 2001 been introducing Jansson’s lesser-known works to British readers. Latest to appear is her bleakly unsettling novel The True Deceiver (Den ärliga bedragaren, 1982), the story of a strange young woman, Katri, who breaks into an elderly artist’s house and attempts to befriend her, for reasons of her own. More…

Hip hip hurray!

13 June 2014 | This 'n' that

Tove Jansson, 1956. Photo: @Moomin Characters

Tove Jansson, 1956. Photo: @Moomin Characters™

The English author of bestselling children’s fantasy books Philip Pullman – of His Dark Materials fame – declares himself a devoted fan of Tove Jansson, the Finnish Moomin-creator and artist, whose stories and novels have been translated into 44 languages.

Pullman has been a fan since the age of eight – now, reassessing Jansson’s work, he notes ‘the perfection of the drawings’. Jansson illustrated her Moomin books, in black-and-white mostly.

Pullman reviews two books in Books for Keeps, the British online children’s book magazine: the newly translated biography of Tove Jansson (1914–2001) by the Swedish scholar Boel Westin (Tove Jansson: Life, Art, Words, Sort of Books, 2014) and Tove Jansson’s memoir from her childhood, Sculptor’s Daughter. ‘Jansson responded to the world with a freshness and originality that have hardly ever been matched in the field of children’s books,’ he writes.

The artist, painter, writer Tove Jansson was born on 9 August – almost a hundred years ago. A major centenary exhibition of her work at the Finnish National Gallery Ateneum is open until 7 September.

Pullman concludes: ‘she could convey all the excitement of wonder as well as the reassurance of comfort and familial love – and [–] evoke a mood of apprehension, loss and mystery. She should have had the Nobel Prize.’

Three cheers – we at Books from Finland agree!

Moomins, and the meanings of our lives

21 December 2012 | This 'n' that

The first ever Moomin story, 1945

Tove Jansson’s Moomin books are widely cherished by children and adults alike. They are funny and charming yet haunting and profound. Lovable Moomintroll; practical and sensible Moominmama; spiky Little My; the terrifying yet complex monster, Groke – Jansson’s creations linger in the mind.

The first ever Moomin book – The Moomins and the Great Flood (Småtrollen och den stora översvämningen, 1945) – was published in the UK in October by Sort Of Books, but Jansson’s writing for adults is also achieving recognition in the English-speaking world.

A Winter Book, a selection of 20 stories by Jansson (Sort Of Books, 2006) was the trigger for a recent event on London’s South Bank. Along with journalist Suzi Feay and writer Philip Ardagh, I was invited to talk about Jansson’s work in general and about these stories in particular.

As Ali Smith notes in her fine introduction to the collection, the texts are ‘beautifully crafted and deceptively simple-seeming’. They are, as she puts it ‘like pieces of scattered light’. She also refers to the stories’ ‘suppleness’ and ‘childlike wilfulness’.

‘The Dark’, for example, offers an apparently random set of snapshots of childhood. Arresting images abound – swaying lamps over an ice rink, swirls in the pattern of a carpet that turn into terrible snakes – to create a tapestry of childhood. It’s like a dream: of ice and fire, fear and safety, a mixture that recalls the secure yet scary world of Moomin valley.

‘Snow’, too, conjures childhood fear. The house that features in this story is unhomely or uncanny, to refer to Freud, and seems haunted by the ghosts of other families. The story ends with the shared resolution between mother and child to return to a place of safety: ‘So we went home.’

Tove Jansson (1914–2001)

The combination of scariness and safety, of comfort and unease, is one of the things that makes Jansson (1914–2001) such a powerful writer, not only for children – although questions of security and fear might have especial resonance in early life – but also for adults, who continue to be haunted by the unknown, but also tempted by it.

The South Bank event also gave participants and audience the chance to talk about other works by Jansson. The Summer Book (Sommarboken, 1972) notably, is a delicate and deft evocation of a summer spent on an island.

The narrative charts the relationship between a grandmother and granddaughter, and at the same time probes such profoundly human questions as love and loss, hope and change and continuity. As always in Jansson, the descriptions are sharp and crisp, and the writing is at once spare and suggestive.

Novels like Fair Play (Rent spel, 1989) and The True Deceiver (Den ärliga bedragaren, 1982) reveal Jansson’s subversive, sly, and subtle sides, which sit alongside her playfulness, warmth, and humour to create a unique aesthetic. Fair Play is a book about the relationship between two women; it’s tender, funny and thoughtful. Never sentimental, it is nonetheless moving. And it’s quietly subversive in its matter-of-fact depiction of a same-sex relationship.

The True Deceiver is set in a snowbound hamlet. A young woman fakes a break-in at the house of an elderly artist, a children’s book illustrator, and a strange dynamic develops between the two women. It’s a book about being outside, about not belonging. The relationship between the women, which is never fully resolved or explained, is especially fascinating.

Jansson excels at showing the human need for both company and privacy, intimacy and autonomy. And her work is profoundly philosophical. In very light, nimble narratives, Jansson explores the meanings of our lives.

Life in the mist

30 December 2001 | Authors

Tove Jansson

Photo: C-G Hagström

Although most famous for her classic Moomin tales for children, Tove Jansson (1914–2001) also wrote extensively for adults. Maria Antas is surprised by the unexpected coldness of many of these stories of art and solitude

It was easy to love Tove Jansson. The creator of the Moomin characters, painter, author of children’s books and books for adults, she was the public symbol of a rare combination of pure wisdom and human kindness. Finns needed her. As she records in the fragmentary letters that make up the short story ‘Meddelande’ (‘Messages’), people turned to her in order to ask for advice on the most diverse matters: how does one become a good artist, help me to understand my parents, my cat has died: help me! More…

Tove Jansson meets Lewis Carroll

27 May 2011 | In the news

The British art museum Tate has recently reprinted two of Lewis Carroll’s books with illustrations by Tove Jansson, artist, writer and creator of the Moomins.

Tove Jansson (1914–2001) had begun to write and illustrate her Moomin stories for children in the late 1940s. In 1959 she was commissioned to illustrate the Swedish-language translation of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark (1874), about an ‘inconceivable creature’, the Snark, for the Finland-Swedish publisher Schildts.

After illustrating The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien in 1962, Jansson then took on Carroll’s best-known book, Alice‘s Adventures in Wonderland, which was published in 1966 (see the pictures here).

The English-language original of Alice with her illustrations was then published in 1977 by Delacorte Press. Tate has now made Tove Jansson’s witty, perceptive visions of Alice available again, while the Snark with her original illustrations has now been printed in English for the first time.

Correspondence

31 March 1996 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

A short story from Resa med lätt bagage (‘Travelling light’, Schildts, 1984)

Dear Jansson san

I am a Japanese girl.
I am thirteen years and two months old.
I will be fourteen on the eighth of March.
I have a mother and two little sisters.
I have read everything that you have written.
When I have read it I read it again.
Then I think about snow and being allowed to be by myself.
Tokyo is a very big city.
I am learning English and I am a very diligent student.
I love you.
I dream of one day being as old as you and as wise.
I have a lot of dreams.
There is a Japanese poem called haiku.
I will send you a haiku.
It is about cherry-blossoms.
Do you live in a big forest?
Forgive me for writing to you.
I wish you health and long life.

Tamiko Atsumi More…

The art of travelling light

30 September 1988 | Archives online, Authors

Tove Jansson‘s third collection of short stories, Resa med lätt bagage (‘Travelling light’) strengthens her position as a writer for adults, with her own intensely personal style and choice of subject.

At the same time new editions of her Moomin books for children are published continually, and the books go on attracting new readers throughout the world. Tove Jansson says she receives over 2,000 letters a year, and she answers them all individually by hand. More…

Remembrance

29 March 2014 | This 'n' that

tove100This year is the centenary of Tove Jansson (1914–2001), the painter, caricaturist, comic strip artist, illustrator and author of books for both children and adults, and, what made her name internationally, the creator of the Moomins. Today, her Moomin books are available in 40 languages.

One sunny April day, walking through the atmospheric old Hietaniemi cemetery by the sea in Helsinki, a charming little bronze statue on top of a narrow granite column caught my eye.

Family grave: sculpture by Victor Jansson

Family grave: sculpture by Victor Jansson

It was a small child balancing on a ball, waving its arms and legs joyously in the air. On a closer look, there was something white attached to the statue: it was a tiny white plastic Moomin.

On the Janssons’ family grave the first little blue flowers had just risen to the surface to bask in the early spring sun. Tove’s father was the sculptor Victor Jansson, her mother was the cartoonist and artist Signe Hammarsten Jansson.

Perhaps one of Tove’s fans had chosen this way of paying homage to the creator of the unique Moomin universe.

jansson1

New from the archive

9 April 2015 | This 'n' that

Tove Jansson. Photo: Hans Gedda

Tove Jansson. Photo: Hans Gedda

After she stopped writing the Moomin stories in 1970, Tove Jansson (1914-2001) began an entirely new career as the author of fiction for adults. This story, ‘Summer child’, comes from her third volume of short stories for adults, Resa med lätt baggage (Travelling light, 1988), where travelling – even if only by motor boat, between the islands of the archipelago that lies off Finland’s south-west coast – is the central theme.

‘Summer child’ tells the story of what happens when Elis, a morbidly serious little boy, spends the summer with a family in the Finnish archipelago. His gloomy world-view disquiets the cheerful Fredriksons to such a degree that in the end their differences can only be settled by violence….

*

The same story is republished, in a different translation, by Sort Of Books of London, with an introduction by the Scottish writer Ali Smith. For Smith, this tale of a young lad, ‘well-informed about everything that’s dying and miserable’, amid the idyllic landscapes of the Finnish summer, is ‘a fable about innocence and knowledge’; the book itself is ‘one of [Jansson’s] funniest, most unputdownably airy works’.

Ali Smith is far from being the only fan of Jansson’s work for adults. Sort Of Books has now published a total of seven volumes of her short stories, memoirs and novels, and her fame has also spread to the United States, where her Moomin books are much less well-known. Her The True Deceiver won the Best Translated Book Award in 2011, and has appeared on Publisher’s Weekly’s list of ‘The 20 Best Books in Translation You’ve Never Read’. It’s in good company – other books include Thomas Bernhard’s Concrete, Knut Hamsun’s Mysterie, Dubravka Ugresic’s The Museum of Unconditional Surrender and George Perec’s Life, A User’s Manual.

Read the short story