Thu. Oct 6th, 2022


TeaHere’s a line from Tov Johnson’s The Summer season E-book the place the narrator describes Kai’s fragility. Residents of the small Finnish island the place the novel is about are cautious to keep away from strolling on the plant, and it’s “solely farmers and summer season company” who stroll on it.

It is because (“and it may’t be repeated fairly often”) Kai is “too weak”. “Step on it as soon as and the subsequent time it rains, it rises up. The second time, it does not rise again. And the third time you step on moss, it dies.”

The fiftieth Anniversary Version of Tov Johnson’s The Summer season E-book. {Photograph}: Classification of Books

Such a deep respect for nature characterizes Jansson’s writing from the books Moomin, which focuses on a household of trolls who reside in concord with their environment, The Summer season E-book, and 9 different novels written by him. and grownup to short-story collections.

The Summer season E-book, which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this 12 months, now has a big British fanbase, largely as a result of unbiased press Type of Books reissued the title in 2003. It is not arduous to see why it is beloved a lot: the novel is, as writer Ali Smith wrote on the time of its reprint, “a masterpiece of the microcosm, the perfection of brief, quiet studying”.

It additionally appears, as we navigate the local weather disaster and generational tradition wars, to be extremely related. The slim quantity tells the story of a grandmother and granddaughter who discover, debate and play collectively throughout the summer season on the island. As Smith places it: “It will be simple to be sentimental right here. Johnson is rarely. As a substitute, she makes use of this inter-generational relationship to spotlight the significance of respect: for one another, for differing views, and for the planet. This can be a notably open-minded e book, maybe reflecting the open-minded life that Jensen and his household lived.

Sophia Jansson, the late writer’s niece and the inspiration for the character’s granddaughter within the novel, tells me about Zoom that she by no means felt like her household wasn’t “regular” rising up (“no matter is regular”). Jansson was adventurous, exploring the uninhabited islands on which he spent each summer season and campaigning in Sweden to permit ladies to camp exterior. After the dying of her mom when she was six years previous, Sofia’s “native household” was made up of her father, her grandmother, her aunt Tov, and Tov’s associate, the artist Tuliki Pietila.

In The Summer season E-book, a good friend from the mainland named Berenice visits the fictional Sofia. Berenice, described as “very well-born and really calm”, is frightened of becoming a member of Grandmother and Sofia’s normal adventures, and shortly turns into the article of Sofia’s admiration for a hopeless burden. Is.

Sophia Johnson.
Sophia Johnson. {Photograph}: Graeme Robertson / The Guardian

Sophia now says, “Tove’s joke is, in a way, what folks may assume is regular.” The island was a spot for the characters and real-life household to create a brand new form of “normality” away from the conventions of the mainland. This was very true for Tov himself, who may reside independently each as an artist and as an odd particular person on the island.

Throughout the household, Sophia says, “there was a obscure however self-evident tolerance for anybody”. As a baby, she was by no means explicitly advised the character of Tov and Tuliki’s relationship – homosexuality would nonetheless have been categorized as a illness in Finland on the time – however she may see That they beloved one another, and that different members of his household accepted them.

Sophia has “no understanding for individuals who have these very inflexible opinions about who they select to be with”. This echoes the sentiment of The Summer season E-book’s grandmother, who, after an argument along with her grandson concerning the existence of Devil, asserts to her younger relative: “You’ll be able to consider what you want. However you could be taught to be tolerant.”

When Sophia now steps on Moss, she nonetheless thinks about The Summer season E-book’s warning, saying to herself “Properly, you may step on it as soon as, possibly even twice, however the third time actually I am dangerous”. This perspective of care and safety is on the coronary heart of The Summer season E-book: it proposes that each plant, each insect—and, certainly, each particular person—has a proper to exist and be cared for. And, 50 years later, that message is extra necessary than ever.

  • The fiftieth anniversary version of The Summer season E-book, together with an afterword by Sofia Jansen, is revealed by Type of Books (£9.99). Sofia will discuss concerning the e book in a digital occasion on September 1st at 7pm organized by Bookshop.org.



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