Tove Jansson’s The True Deceiver (1982; Trans. Thomas Teal, 2009)
The prose in this Jansson novel is just the kind that would have deterred Elizabeth Taylor: chunky with scattered dialogue. But the book is short, the margins wide, and chapters only a few pages long: the language is simple and the syntax propulsive:
“Towards the end of August everything went quiet again, back to normal. And by and by came winter.”
Between these two statements, a season changes. The world looks one way and, then, it is transformed. It’s unrecognizable. This is what happens in the narrative beyond these sentences too. And it’s just as quiet as the end of August, the transformation which is at the heart of this slim novel.
Along the way – or perhaps I should say ‘by and by’ – what is normal also shifts dramatically. For better. And for worse. At the same time. And if that kind of discrepancy troubles you, Jansson’s story likely isn’t for you. There is a sibling relationship, a relationship between two women, and a relationship between a woman and a dog – all against the backdrop of the web of relationships that exist in a small coastal community in Finland.
The story unfolds in a time when nobody locks their doors, not at night and not ever. The doors do not even have locking mechanisms. But the nature of the adversary in this story – if, indeed, there is such a thing – isn’t the usual sort. Certainly not the sort that can be barricaded through the use of a lock. The matter of deception – its twinned theme of betrayal – stems from a different sort of power. Though the fear one can experience in the face of it, that’s the usual kind of fear.
There are more works by both of these authors on the library’s shelves. With Anderson, there are seven books from which to choose, but only one is a circulating copy (a Text Classics edition of The Commandant). With Jansson, there are Moonintrolls, in comics and stories, along with a volume of non-fiction and two collections of stories.
Thanks to Bill and Paula for encouraging me to take time for books and authors which I’ve neglected for too long.
What are you reading or doing these days, in an effort to nourish what you feel you have been neglecting?