Fair Play is the type of love story that is rarely told, a revelatory depiction of contentment, hard-won and exhilarating.
Mari is a writer and Jonna is an artist, and they live at opposite ends of a big apartment building, their studios connected by a long attic passageway. They have argued, worked, and laughed together for decades. Yet they’ve never really stopped taking each other by surprise. Fair Play shows us Mari and Jona’s intertwined lives as they watch Fassbinder films and Westerns, critique each other’s work, spend time on a solitary island (recognizable to readers of Jansson’s The Summer Book), travel through the American Southwest, and turn life into nothing less than art.
In this brilliantly translated novel from the Swedish by Thomas Teal, Finnish-born author Tove Jansson, whose Moomin children’s books may be familiar to some readers, gives us a spare, rich collection of vignettes. A novel, a short-story collection, and an autobiographical journey, Fair Play centers on the lives of two creative women—Mari, the writer, and Jonna, the artist…For those who have yet to discover Jansson, her writing is a true pleasure, and her characters, although sparse on dialogue, are complex, passionate, and deeply empathetic. Recommend Jansson to readers of Anita Brookner’s similarly introspective novels.
— Booklist starred review
This novel is about creativity from the very start—about how to take a day… and make it really new and fresh, no matter what age you are, what life you’re in.
—Ali Smith, from the Introduction
Jansson reveals the ambiguities in every encounter. There are no easy moral judgments. Only the very finest art can show us so many shades of psychological nuance, yet make them visible with such clarity.
—Damion Searls, Harper’s
Jansson is… content to let the narrative almost disappear into what Hegel called the “prose of the world”: the beauty of the day-to-day. It is here… that we find the true meaning of the novel.
—Andreas Campomar, The Times Literary Supplement
A book about love—tender, eccentric and fiercely independent. It feels a privilege to read it.
Fairness and playfulness are at the heart of this delightful novel, which chronicles in 17 luminous snapshots a shared artistic life…. Jansson has a knack for packing a good deal of wit and wisdom into ostensibly simple tales. These deft and gentle stories are as refreshing as a dip in chilly Finnish seas.
—The Guardian (London)