I’ve long loved Tove Jansson’s childrens’ stories, filled with quirky, delightful characters. Here, translated into English for the first time, is Art in Nature – a collection of short stories that Tove Jansson wrote and published for adults under the name Dockskåpet (Doll’s House) in 1978. The writing is just as captivating as when I was a child, even for me now, as an adult, in a book that deals with about adult concepts.
Here, for instance, is the story of a caretaker of an island filled with sculptures, hiding amongst trees and under surfaces, that tourists visit for day trips, who is left to clean up after them and patrol the island at night. His story is one of always watching, never taking part, and never being recognised by the countless people he sees every day. Here, too, is a story of obsession and perfectionism in the creation of the world’s most perfect Doll’s House – a furniture maker who delights in making precise replicas in doll-sized furniture decides to build a house for his creations. But the perfectionism comes at a price – and the builder is unaware of how dangerous it might be. From here there are more and more detailed, intricate tales, all of which examine human relationships in all their complexity, harmony, differences and charm.
This little volume of eleven short stories would fit in your pocket or hand and I think it rewards the casual reader. Just dip in and marvel at the detail, every bit as enchanting and intriguing as those long-ago childrens’ tales. Each of these short stories provided me with many things to contemplate, and gave me a new view of the world and the people around me. And if it’s unlike anything you have read before, then here is your chance to dip your toe into the whimsical waters of Tove Jansson.
Available now: Allen & Unwin RRP$19.99