Tove Jansson (1914–2001) was born in Helsinki into Finland’s Swedish-speaking minority. Her father was a sculptor and her mother a graphic designer and illustrator. Winters were spent in the family’s art-filled studio and summers in a fisherman’s cottage on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, a setting that would later figure in Jansson’s writing for adults and children. Jansson loved books as a child and set out from an early age to be an artist. Her first illustration was published when she was fifteen years old; four years later a picture book appeared under a pseudonym. After attending art schools in both Stockholm and Paris, she returned to Helsinki, where in the 1940s and ’50s she won acclaim for her paintings and murals. From 1929 until 1953 Jansson drew humorous illustrations and political cartoons for the left-leaning anti-Fascist Finnish-Swedish magazine Garm, and it was there that what was to become Jansson’s most famous creation, Moomintroll, a hippopotamus-like character with a dreamy disposition, made his first appearance. Jansson went on to write about the adventures of Moomintroll, the Moomin family, and their curious friends in a long-running comic strip and in a series of books for children that have been translated throughout the world, inspiring films, several television series, an opera, and theme parks in Finland and Japan. Jansson also wrote eleven novels and short story collections for adults, including The Summer Book and The True Deceiver (both available as NYRB Classics). In 1994 she was awarded the Prize of the Swedish Academy. Jansson and her companion, the artist Tuulikki Pietilä, continued to live part-time in a cottage on the remote outer edge of the Finnish archipelago until 1991.
The art of loving, creating, and living is examined in this group of quietly moving, “discreetly radical” episodes from the lives of two artists. This is the first US publication of Thomas Teal’s prize-winning translation. “A book about love—tender, eccentric and fiercely independent. It feels a privilege to read it.”—Esther Freud
A story of manipulation and deceit set in the depths of the Swedish winter, The True Deceiver is unlike anything else Tove Jansson wrote. “I loved this book. It’s cool in both senses of the word, understated yet exciting, and with a tension that keeps you reading.” —Ruth Rendell
A grandmother and her granddaughter live out a summer of play, talk, love, and exploration on a tiny island in the Gulf of Finland (also the setting for some of the author’s Moomintroll tales). “A marvelous, beautiful, wise novel, which is also very funny.” —Philip Pullman