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Travelling Light

by Tove Jansson

In her delightful collection of short stories, Tove Jansson pierces the humdrum and coruscates the mean and commonplace. Yet, while debunking social preconceptions and pretension, she reveals, through skilful changes of meaning and emphasis, her essential philanthropy and her affection for the huggermugger and the humbug. And it is exactly that which makes her reader laugh out loud.

Tove Jansson, although very widely travelled, lived and breathed her existential Scandinavia. She knew and appreciated the warmth of the sun in the brief summers, and the long winter dark that is never quite dark. The forests, the sea and the islands are psychologically and vitally intrinsic to her thought and her work. But her respect for this eternal life force is connected with, rather than ignored by, her concern for the human race. It is people, their relationships and societies that really interest her and exhilarate her short stories. It is their crises and their distress, their power-plays with one another and their possessiveness: their gaiety, malice and eccentricities colour the pages of her book.

Tove Jansson deplores the homogenous and desolate landscape of soulless and featureless high-rise concrete buildings "without character, monotonous as polite conversation". With the lightest of touch and a stroke of her quill she demolishes them and all they stand for. There is absolutely nothing fey or sentimental in Tove's writing, but with her deft sleight of hand and her exceptional imagination her reader finds herself free floating in her lively, sad, funny world of storytelling.

Translated into English for the first time, TRAVELLING LIGHT was first published in 1987, but it is only now that Tove Jansson's novels and short stories are being made available in English. She is also the writer and illustrator of the well loved stories for children of the Finn Family Moomintroll.

Paula McMaster

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