Letters from Tove: Casual brilliance and beauty

Book review: Tove Jansson’s letters offer a wonderful insight into the Finnish author’s curious, intelligent, funny and unsentimental mind

 Tove Jansson: clear-eyed grace and humour  was a hallmark of her  writing, from her beloved Moomins stories to her adult fiction.  Photograph: Alf Lidman.

Tove Jansson: clear-eyed grace and humour was a hallmark of her writing, from her beloved Moomins stories to her adult fiction. Photograph: Alf Lidman.

“The personal correspondence of writers feeds on leftover energy,” the novelist and New Yorker fiction editor William Maxwell wrote in his 1982 introduction to a collection of his correspondence with his friend Sylvia Townsend Warner. “There is also the element of lavishness, of enjoying the fact that they are throwing away one of their better efforts, for the chances of any given letter’s surviving is 50-50, at most. And there is the element of confidence – of the relaxed backhand stroke that can place the ball anywhere that it pleases the writer to have it go.”

Letters From Tove, a wonderful collection of letters written by the Finnish artist and writer Tove Jansson is full of such examples of casual brilliance and beauty; Sarah Death’s seemingly effortless translation preserves the clear-eyed grace and humour that was a hallmark of Jansson’s writing, from her beloved Moomins stories to her adult fiction.

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