Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: December 8, 2009
The True Deceiver
by Tove Jansson, introduction by Ali Smith, translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal
Deception—the lies we tell ourselves and the lies we tell others—is the subject of this, Tove Jansson’s most unnerving and unpredictable novel. Here Jansson takes a darker look at the subjects that animate the best of her work, from her sensitive tale of island life, The Summer Book, to her famous Moomin stories: solitude and community, art and life, love and hate.
Snow has been falling on the village all winter long. It covers windows and piles up in front of doors. The sun rises late and sets early, and even during the day there is little to do but trade tales. This year everybody’s talking about Katri Kling and Anna Aemelin. Katri is a yellow-eyed outcast who lives with her simpleminded brother and a dog she refuses to name. She has no use for the white lies that smooth social intercourse, and she can see straight to the core of any problem. Anna, an elderly children’s book illustrator, appears to be Katri’s opposite: a respected member of the village, if an aloof one. Anna lives in a large empty house, venturing out in the spring to paint exquisitely detailed forest scenes. But Anna has something Katri wants, and to get it Katri will take control of Anna’s life and livelihood. By the time spring arrives, the two women are caught in a conflict of ideals that threatens to strip them of their most cherished illusions.
Download the Reading Group Guide for The True Deceiver.Tove Jansson, introduction by Ali Smith, translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal
I loved this book. It's cool in both senses of the word, understated yet exciting, and with a tension that keeps you reading. I felt transported to that remote region of Sweden and when I finished it I read it all over again. The characters still haunt me.
Tove Jansson is a great, engaging talent—a serious, complex, occasionally macabre novelist as well as a major and versatile painter who has worked for fifty years in the artistic mainstream. In Scandinavia, she is regarded as a treasure. As we come better to understand her achievement, we honor her likewise.
—The Horn Book
[A] dark companion to her glowing The Summer Book. Here the setting is winter, and the almost Highsmithian subject concerns a woman who inveigles herself into the life of a famous, and rich, writer. Jansson's writing is, as always, understated yet acute and thrilling.
—The Los Angeles Times
Her description is unhurried, accurate and vivid, an artist's vision . . . The sentences are beautiful in structure, movement and cadence. They have inevitable rightness. And this is a translation! Thomas Teal deserves to have his name on the title page with Jansson's: he has worked the true translator's miracle. . . . the most beautiful and satisfying novel I have read this year.
—Ursula K. Le Guin, The Guardian
A perfectly constructed book about truth and deceit, and deceiving through truth, it’s obvious why this book won the Best Translated Book Award in 2011. And it’s the perfect accompaniment to reading all of Jansson’s Moomin books.
Jansson crafts an unsentimental—often mischievous—novel of ideas that asks whether it is better to be kind than to be truthful, especially for an artist. Ali Smith’s excellent introduction expresses shock and delight that there is still fiction by Jansson untranslated into English. After reading this gem, who could disagree?
[A]s this narrative ticks forward, it becomes evident that a book of almost inscrutable intricacy is being built from so many simple, separate components gradually enmeshing.
—Theodore McDermott, The Believer