‘The Summer Child’ by Tove Jansson, translated by Silvester Mazzarella

Tove Jansson is enjoying a sort of Renaissance in recent years, with two biographies of her life published in 2014 and her 2017 retrospective at the Dulwich Picture gallery showcasing her skills as a painter as well as satirist and beloved creator of The Moomins. Her ‘grown-up’ fiction (whatever that means) has been steadily drip-fed into English by Sort Of books through her novels and short story collections. ‘The Summer Child’ is a perfect place to start if you are new to Jansson’s prose and like many of her novels takes an island family for its subject. Ali Smith writes of this story that it “challenges the way we narrate ourselves” since the boy that the Fredirikson family generously take on for the summer proves to be more trouble than he is worth. It’s a story that is darkly comic and grounded in reality, the slights and small evils of children, the harsh natural world that Jansson never idealises, all told in deceptively straight-forward prose. For an insight into more of Jansson’s excellent, honest unsentimental writing keep an eye of The Paris Review who are publishing some of her untranslated essays for the first time in English.

First published as Resa Med Lätt Bagage, Schidts Förlags Ab, 1987. Later published in English in Travelling Light, Sort of Books, 2010

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