Which women in translation will you read in 2014?
Grandmother had had to be frugal all her life, and so she had a weakness for extravagance. She watched the basin and the barrels and every crevice in the granite fill with water and overflow. She looked at the mattresses out being aired and the dishes that were washing themselves. She sighed contentedly, and, absorbed in thought, she filled a coffee cup with precious drinking water and poured it over a daisy.
—Tove Jansson, The Summer Book
This reader-submitted photo was taken at what looks like Verb Café in Williamsburg—right next to the excellent Spoonbill & Sugartown Booksellers—in late October. She writes, that on the “last of the autumn Sundays … you gather close to your steaming mug and open book; the last pages of summer.”
Anna read her books afresh, and it seemed suddenly as if she had a large circle of friends, all of whom lived more or less adventuresome lives. She was happier. When Mats came in the evenings, they would drink tea in the kitchen while reading their books and talking about them. If Katri came in, they were quiet and waited for her to leave. The back door would close, and Katri would have gone.
“Does your sister read our books?” Anna wanted to know.
“No. She reads literature.”
—Tove Jansson, The True Deceiver
Our friends at London Review Bookshop compiled a list of their Top Ten Most Popular Fiction Books to commemorate turning ten, and guess what?! The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (in a lovely edition from Jansson’s UK publisher, Sort Of Books) and The Case of Comrade Tulayev by Victor Serge top the list.
Congratulations, London Review Bookshop, and thank you for being such great supporters!
Depending on what kind of kid you were, you may know Finnish author Tove Jansson as the author of the delightful Moomin books — but in our opinion, her success with children’s books has overshadowed her beautiful, glistening prose for adults, particularly The Summer Book, a collection of twenty-two vignettes on the nature of summer, each one its own perfect bauble to be cherished and shined once a year.
—Emily Temple, for an article titled "10 Underrated Books Everyone Should Read" in Flavorwire. The Summer Book has been a not-so-secret favorite for many NYRB Classics super-fans and staff. And if this doesn’t pull you in, Buzzfeed points out that Tove Jansson is one of "30 Renowned Authors Inspired By Cats."
Brunström’s island taxi put Helga ashore on a June evening. She greeted them quietly and solemnly as if at a funeral. Helga was still short, but she had grown in girth. Her face bore an expression of reserved obstinacy. They walked up to the cottage, where a fish soup stood ready on the stove, and had a hard time getting a conversation started. Helga did not want to unpack. ‘Tomorrow,’ she said. ‘Tomorrow is Her birthday.’
In the tent, Jonna observed that Helga had brought an awful lot of luggage.
‘Yes,’ Mari said. ‘Let’s read for a while.’
The cat came in to go to bed.
—from Tove Jansson’s Fair Play. Today would have been Jansson’s 98th birthday (she died in 2001) and we wanted to celebrate with this example of her typically laconic and detached prose. Jansson is most famous for her children’s illustrated Moomin books, of which there is now a theme park called Moomin World in Naantali, Finland, but also wrote books for adults. NYRB Classics has so far published three of these—The Summer Book, Fair Play, and The True Deceiver—and has one, The Sculptor’s Daughter, in the works for the Fall 2013 season. If you want more information on Tove check out this amazing website on her, in particular we recommend you look at the Klovharu Island page, which is the inspiration behind The Summer Book, one of NYRB Classics most beloved books.
(Pssst. Our Tove Jansson collection is currently available at 40% off the retail price.)
IT WAS a tiny kitten when it came and could drink its milk only from a nipple. Fortunately, they still had Sophia’s baby bottle in the attic. In the beginning, the kitten slept in a tea cozy to keep warm, but when it found its legs they let it sleep in the cottage in Sophia’s bed. It had its own pillow, next to hers.
It was a gray fisherman’s cat and it grew fast. One day, it left the cottage and moved into the house, where it spent its nights under the bed in the box where they kept the dirty dishes. It had odd ideas of its own even then. Sophia carried the cat back to the cottage and tried as hard as she could to ingratiate herself, but the more love she gave it, the quicker it fled back to the dish box. When the box got too full, the cat would howl and someone would have to wash the dishes. Its name was Ma Petite, but they called it Moppy.
“It’s funny about love,” Sophia said. “The more you love someone, the less he likes you back.”
“That’s very true,” Grandmother observed. “And so what do you do?”
“You go on loving,” said Sophia threateningly. “You love harder and harder.”
Her grandmother sighed and said nothing.
So now the mongers at McNally Jackson are trying to take credit for the great winter 2012 surge of Summer Book reading. You know what? Fine. We don’t mind, the more Jansson that goes around the better.
Wordbrooklyn: We’re taking credit for this even though we have no proof.
Not so fast, ladies: http://tumblr.com/ZDtOFyFSmG_2
“Gathering is peculiar, because you see nothing but what you’re looking for. If you’re picking raspberries, you see only what’s red, and if you’re looking for bones you see only the white. No matter where you go, the only thing you see is bones.”
“'There’s a strange thing about love,' said Sophia. 'The more you love someone the less that person likes you.' 'That’s very true,' commented the grandmother. 'And then what do you do?' 'You keep loving,' answered Sophia threateningly. 'You love more and more terribly.'”
— Tove Jansson, The Summer Book (via iamingrid)
Tove Jansson was born today in 1914 in Helsinki, Finland, though her family were part of the Swedish-speaking minority of Finland. To celebrate, we wanted to share this very good website about her where you can see examples of her art, history of her family, and information about where she lived. If you are interested in the islands in the Gulf of Finland and how they influenced her, do have a look at The Summer Book.