Friday, March 14, 2014

The Centennary of Tove Jansson's Birth

If you don't know any small children to whom you could read the Moomintroll books you should hire a few, just as cover so that you can read them yourself. Tove Jansson, the author responsible for those books, was born a hundred years ago this year:

This year Finland is celebrating the centenary of the birth of Tove Jansson, creator of the Moomins, and one of the most successful children's writers ever. Her life included war and lesbian relationships - both reflected by the Moomins in surprising ways.
There is Moomintroll, Moominmamma and Moominpappa - little white trolls who live in Moominvalley, with other fantastical creatures such as the Hattifatteners, Mymbles and Whompers.
Tove Jansson's Moomin books have sold in their millions, and been translated into 44 languages.
Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials, has described her as a genius. Other devotees include Michael Morpurgo, writer of War Horse and dozens of other children's books, and Frank Cottrell Boyce, who scripted the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony.
"I was completely blown away and enchanted," says Boyce, who read Finn Family Moomintroll as a 10-year-old, after discovering the book in a Liverpool library.
"I didn't realise it was set in a real place. I thought she'd made Finland up. Finland was like Narnia, with these incredible characters that were so strange but instantly recognisable because you had met lots of them - noisy Hemulens or neurotic, skinny Fillijonks."

The books are aimed at children.  Don't let that stop you from reading at least the Tales from Moominvalley, a 1962 short-story collection.  

It is one of the books I might take with me to a deserted island, because of the vast psychological riches the stories contain.  It's hard to pick a favorite among them, but if I had to do so I'd pick "The Fillyjonk Who Believed In Disasters,*"for reasons I discuss in this post.
*The story is so good that a summary doesn't give it any kind of justice.  I know because I tried.