Tove Jansson

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Tove Jansson

Postby Leelas on Wednesday, 31 December 2014, 11:56 pm

I'm wondering if you're familiar with the Moomin books, by Tove Jansson. There are nine of them, written in Swedish between the years 1945 and 1970, all of which have been translated into English.

As for why I recommend them, here are my scattered thoughts.

Despite being written for children, these are beautifully evocative and deeply introspective works, dealing with themes of belonging and coping with upheaval and loss. These are adventure stories, but the conflict is almost always internal - in the early books, inspired by Jansson's childhood experience in wartime and post-war Europe, the Moomins contend with floods, comets, and volcanoes. None of these are stoppable, and saving the world is never on the agenda. Instead, the Moomins struggle to survive, with their way of life intact. The later books are more personal and some say darker, and deal with change, as expressed in seasonality, and the comings and goings of particular characters. The last book in particular, Moominvalley in November, is a sober and entirely serious examination of loss and the challenge of letting go, which completely went over my head when I was a kid, but which, in retrospect, was probably the best entry in the series. Jansson made the jump to non-fantastical fiction after writing it.

And yet these are lighthearted and beautiful books as well, centered upon the warm and accepting Moomin family, and taking place in the utterly magical and yet strangely familiar and naturalistic Moomin Valley.

I'm in the process of rereading them right now, and I thought about this website (which has helped me find many a wonderful read in the past) and wondered whether or not you were familiar with them. If not, I highly recommend them.
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Re: Tove Jansson

Postby owlcroft on Monday, 05 January 2015, 6:52 pm

I am familiar with them, and have read the first several.

I am aware that a great many people find them as full of wonder and delight as you have described them, but for whatever reason, I was unable to connect with them. That may be a failing on my part, I can't say; but, for better or for worse, the choices here reflect my opinions and tastes, so I have omitted them.

I am, incidentally, very far behind in keepng this site up. I have some books and authors I should be adding, and the essay series has been jammed up at Tanith Lee for some years now. My time has been taken up by other sites (The Induction Site and That Useful Wine Site primarily) and even Real Life (I sit as a Commisioner on our local public-hospital board, and we just passed a 6.4-million-dollar bond for a major renovation).

I do hope to get bak to work on this site sometime this year. I hope evrybody had a good holiday season, and will have a fine 2015.
Eric Walker, webmaster
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Re: Tove Jansson

Postby Leelas on Tuesday, 06 January 2015, 2:46 am

I doubt it's just you - the first four books (Great Flood, Comet, Finn Family, Moominpappa's Memoirs) are of lesser quality than the last five (Moominsummer, Midwinter, Tales, Moominpappa at Sea, November), and, in my opinion, suffer from much lower quality translation. Finn Family is the one where Jansson finds her own voice, and Moominsummer Madness is the first truly great entry. Tales from Moominvalley (short story collection) is a good choice for one who is pressed for time and wants short and self-contained examples of what makes these books great.

Happy holidays to you as well. I eagerly await (as always) the next update to this site, whenever it may happen to come.
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