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Tove Jansson – Sent i november

Title: Sent i November
Translated title: Moominvalley in November
Author: Tove Jansson
Year: 1970

The Moomins are famous worldwide and I should think most Swedes have read, heard or watched Tove Jansson’s creation. I’m no exception, but it wasn’t until the year before last I started reading the books as an adult (see review of Pappan och havet), and was stunned by the unique and fantastic language used to tell adoring stories, suitable for children and grown-ups alike. Sent i november is the second book I read and although it wasn’t as great as Pappan och havet, it was still very good.

The Moomins have left their valley for unknown reasons, but some of their friends and acquaintances don’t learn about that until they arrive, resulting in an odd assortment of characters living in the valley, sharing their sometimes wildly disparate memories of the Moomins. Hemulen is busy meddling in the affairs of others, Snufkin searches for a lost melody, Mymble is at ease and sarcastic, a Fillyjonk is torn between a wish to fill Moominmamma’s role and a fear of cleaning, Grandpa Grumble is obsessed with the Ancestor (who supposedly lived in the tile stove, but has taken refuge in a cupboard), and finally, Toft has left his home in Hemulen’s boat and is reads a book about microbiology, but misunderstands the text and a hideous monster begins to take shape, but is it really only in his mind?

I will skip directly to the two main arguments for reading Tove Jansson: imagination and language. The first one is quite easy to summarise, but difficult to pinpoint more exactly. The author was a master of creating small but wonderful ideas, and bringing them together into stories which aren’t complicated, but at the same time singularly intriguing. The second one, language, is easy to understand, at least for those of you who know Swedish. Here are two quotes I found brilliant, first a note Grandpa Grumble writes when he leaves his relatives:

“Nu går jag min väg och jag mår utmärkt. […] Jag har hört allt som ni har sagt i hundra år för jag är inte alls döv och jag vet att ni har festat i smyg hela tiden.” (page 44)

…and one about Mymble during a thunderstorm:

“Under det korta våldsamma ovädret blev Mymlan helt och hållet elektrisk. Hennes hår slog gnistor och varje litet fjun på hennes armar och ben ställde sig på ända och darrade. Nu är jag laddad av vildhet, tänkte hon. Jag skulle kunna göra vad som helst, men gör ingenting alls. Vad det är skönt att göra vad man har lust med. Hon rullade ihop sig på ejderdunstäcket och kände sig som en liten kulblixt, ett nystan av eld.” (page 91)

The last sentence in the second quote is probably the best sentence I’ve read in Swedish for a long, long time. Still, these are only a few examples, similar language abounds in this novel.

As if this weren’t enough, the characters themselves are a nice mixture of stereotypes and originality, giving them a feeling of representatives for human personalities, without losing a personal touch.

The only reason I won’t give this five snails is that it simply isn’t as brilliant as Moominpappan at sea. The story is a bit vaguer and not that interesting. Still, all other aspects are perfect and make me want to read more as quickly as possible. I will buy more of Tove Jansson’s books shortly, because these are the kind of books I want to be able re-read and lend to others whenever I want to.

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  1. Carin’s avatar

    Man får börja läsa mumin helt klart. Jag har bara sett det som tecknat när jag var ett litet knytt.. hehe. Ejderdunstäcket var ett bra ord, synd att man får in det i väldigt få meningar..
    Tycker det är lite dåligt att boken inte fick en femma för att den inte var lika bra som muminpappan och havet.. om du läst den här först och muminpappan och havet sen, hur hade betygsättningen sett ut då? :P


  2. Olle Linge’s avatar

    Ja, det borde du göra. Jag har både Sent i november och Pappan och havet här hemma och du får gärna låna om du vill. Vad gäller betygen tror jag inte att jag hade satt fem på den här om jag läst den först; den är helt enkelt inte lika lysande som Pappan och havet. Dock väldigt bra, båda förtjänar att bli lästa. :)