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….

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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