Letters from Tove

2020
Author:

Tove Jansson
Edited by Boel Westin and Helen Svensson
Translated by Sarah Death

Letters from Tove
A virtual memoir in letters by the beloved creator of the Moomins

These letters, penned with characteristic insight and wit, provide an almost seamless commentary on Tove Jansson’s life within Helsinki’s bohemian circles and on her island home. They summon a particular place and time reflected through a mind finely attuned to her culture, her world, and her own nature, drawing a complex, intimate self-portrait of one of the world’s most beloved authors.

"Reading these letters, you will gradually fall under the illusion that they are addressed to you. This is how inviting, candid, and quietly dazzling Tove Jansson’s prose is in her correspondence. Letters from Tove is a fundamental addition to Jansson’s oeuvre. At the end of the book, you will feel that you have a new, very close friend."
—Hernan Diaz, author of In the Distance

Tove Jansson’s works, even her famed Moomin books, fairly teem with letters of one kind or another, from messages bobbing in bottles to whole epistolary novels. Fortunately for her countless readers, her life was no different, unfolding as it did in the letters to family, friends, and lovers that make up this volume, a veritable autobiography over the course of six decades—and the only one Jansson ever wrote. And just as letters carry a weight of significance in Jansson’s writing, those she wrote throughout her life reflect the gravity of her circumstances, the depth of her thoughts and feelings, and the critical moments of humor, sadness, and grace that mark an artist’s days.

These letters, penned with characteristic insight and wit, provide an almost seamless commentary on Jansson’s life within Helsinki’s bohemian circles and on her island home. Shifting between hope and despair, yearning and happiness, they describe her immersion in art studies and her ascension to fame with the Moomins. They speak frankly of friendship and love, loneliness and solidarity, and also of politics, art, literature, and society. They summon a particular place and time reflected through a mind finely attuned to her culture, her world, and her own nature—all clearly put into biographical and historical context by the volume’s editors, both longtime friends of Tove Jansson—and, in the end, draw a complex, intimate self-portrait of one of the world’s most beloved authors.

Letters from Tove

Finnish writer, artist, and political cartoonist Tove Jansson (1914–2001) is best known for her books about the Moomins, adventurous, amusing cartoon trolls who had much in common with their bohemian, nature-loving author and, it seems, shared many of her family’s traits. She is also the author of eleven novels and short-story collections for adults, including The Summer Book and The True Deceiver.



Boel Westin is professor of literature at Stockholm University and author of the biography Tove Jansson: Life, Words, Art. She is chairman of jury for the world’s largest children’s literature prize, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.



Helen Svensson was a literary manager at Schildts Forlag Publishers for thirty years where she was Jansson’s last editor.



Sarah Death is a prizewinning literary translator, mainly from Swedish, with some forty translated titles to her name.
Letters from Tove

Reading these letters, you will gradually fall under the illusion that they are addressed to you. This is how inviting, candid, and quietly dazzling Tove Jansson’s prose is in her correspondence. Letters from Tove is a fundamental addition to Jansson’s oeuvre. At the end of the book, you will feel that you have a new, very close friend.

Hernan Diaz, author of In the Distance

Tove Jansson was a genius, a woman of profound wisdom and great artistry.

Philip Pullman

It’s hard to describe the astonishing achievement of Jansson’s artistry.

Ali Smith

Tove Jansson is one of the greatest children’s writers there has ever been.

Sir Terry Pratchett

Witty, shrewd, and hugely entertaining.

The Spectator

Treasures aplenty—cultural history gems as well as biographical revelations, all related in a voice that’s funny, gracious, intimate.

The Guardian

Offers readers the privilege of spending time inside an intelligent, creative, curious, generous, funny, unsentimental mind.

The Irish Times

This spirited collection of letters by Finnish author and illustrator Tove Jansson . . . brims with affection, humor, and artistry. . . . Jansson’s fans will particularly enjoy discovering which characters had real-life inspirations. However, all readers should find her a delight to spend time with.

Publishers Weekly

This reprint from University of Minnesota Press captures Tove’s signature clear-eyed writing in letters that capture the mid-century bohemian Nordic life of a celebrated artist and author of much more than just children’s books.

Electric Literature

Packed with biographical revelations and cultural/historical treasures, this 500-page tome is a treat for all true Tove devotees.

Drawn & Quarterly

Full of joy and thoughtfulness.

Seattle Times

Jansson’s letters are of course of great memoiristic value to readers interested in the arc of her life. Readers searching for that will find much to chew on in this remarkable collection of letters which spans over 50 years.

Chicago Review of Books

Readers who loved the Moomintroll chapter books, who remember the Moomin comic strips that made her a household name, or perhaps are among the cultish devotees of her autobiographical novel The Summer Book will find much to enjoy in this collection, which reveals Jansson as a complex, passionate and exceptionally hardworking artist. You may even come away agreeing with Philip Pullman’s assessment that she is a genius, though not all geniuses would be such good company over nearly 500 pages.

Wall Street Journal

Twenty years after Jansson’s death, we now have a record of the joys—and strains—of a lifetime of correspondence.

The New Yorker

Letters from Tove

CONTENTS


Introduction


“I do so wonder about the future”


LETTERS TO THE FAMILY 1932–1933


“I think about you all the time”


LETTERS TO THE FAMILY 1938–1939


“I am never alone when I talk to you”


LETTERS TO EVA KONIKOFF 1941–1967


“I can see the ideas growing like trees straight through you”


LETTERS TO ATOS WIRTANEN 1943–1971


“Under the names of Tofslan and Vifslan”


LETTERS TO VIVICA BANDLER 1946–1976


“Do we really appreciate how lucky we are . . . ?”


LETTERS TO Tuulikki Pietilä 1946–1976


“Dearest Ham”


LETTERS TO SIGNE HAMMARSTEN JANSSON


1959–1967


“A letter that you burn – please! – is better than talking”


LETTERS TO MAYA VANNI 1957–1983


“So just conceivably another book”


LETTERS TO ÅKE RUNNQUIST 1965–1988


Sources/credits


Index