Letters from Tove
by Tove Jansson
edited by Boel Westin and Helen Svensson
translated from Swedish by Sarah Death
This is a giant warm cuddle of a book. It took me a while to read as the letters are many and to some extent a little repetitive, but I loved effectively being able to hear Tove Jansson speak honestly to the people she was close to. The book only includes Tove’s letters, not the other half, so there is always part of the conversation missing, which also makes it a little bit of a mystery puzzle.
The correspondence is organised by addressee, beginning with letters that Tove sent to her family when she went to art school in Stockholm, and then two long trips to France and Italy to further her art education. Young Tove was very adventurous, sociable and passionate – about art and about people. I laughed out loud at her descriptions of the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where she was treated awfully and quickly left for a smaller school where she felt she was actually learning.
Her parents were both artists themselves and lived for part of every year in an artists’ colony – a lifestyle that Tove carried into her own adulthood, but it often clashed with her desire for solitude and peace, and this clash is something that is increasingly the focus of her letters. But her biggest fight is always with her own art.