The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson Translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal Introduced by Ali Smith A book of haunting suspense, a dark companion to The Summer Book, introduced by Ali Smith In the deep winter snows of a Swedish hamlet, a strange young woman fakes a break in at the house of an elderly artist in order to persuade her that she needs companionship But what does she hope to gain by doing this And who ultimately is deceiving whom In this portrayal of two women encircling each other with truth and lies, nothing can be taken for granted By the time the snow thaws, both their lives will have changed irrevocably First ever publication in English, in a translation by Thomas Teal


10 thoughts on “The True Deceiver

  1. Eddie Watkins Eddie Watkins says:

    I like Tove Jansson s brand of wisdom It s not a hard won wisdom of the sort that has grown from the rubble of cynicism, betrayal, and defeat It s a clear eyed wisdom that has never lost its innocence a wisdom that plays even as it sees through to the dark heart of people and things It s the wisdom of solitude and barrenness that attracts company and fertility but doesn t need them content to know but not participate overmuch, radiating a warmth from its detachment.This is a late novel by I like Tove Jansson s brand of wisdom It s not a hard won wisdom of the sort that has grown from the rubble of cynicism, betrayal, and defeat It s a clear eyed wisdom that has never lost its innocence a wisdom that plays even as it sees through to the dark heart of people and things It s the wisdom of solitude and barrenness that attracts company and fertility but doesn t need them content to know but not participate overmuch, radiating a warmth from its detachment.This is a late novel by Jansson, published in 1982, a good decade after the last Moomin book, and is something of an oblique manifesto of this wisdom It s the story of two women that plays out with eerie similarities to Bergman s Persona two women of initially radically different temperaments who through close proximity push each other to crisis and change of perspective, passing through each other as this occurs, and all transpiring in a small Scandinavian house But the agent of change in The True Deceiver is a willful action by one of the women, a possibly sociopathic, yet very beguiling and fascinating character, a calculating loner whose heart is devoted to the welfare of her simple minded brother She forces change upon the other woman who for a lifetime has been sheltered from the world and its vagaries by her success as an artist It s a cat and mouse game that proceeds with fairy tale touches the Big Bad Wolf and the Flowery Rabbit that only enhance its glaring realism And once again after reading one of Tove Jansson s adult novels, I am not only marveling at her narrative subtlety and evocativeness, and her effortless ability to use the natural cycles of the seasons as a plot device this book proceeding from deep Winter freeze to the beginnings of a great Spring thaw , but also at the Finnish practice of carelessly dumping their garbage in the sea This practice of garbage disposal plays a major role in this novel, as all the baggage of the artist character is lugged out onto the ice and piled up to await the Spring thaw when the ice will crack and all her unnecessary possessions will sink away, leaving room for her life to change even as it remains the same


  2. Hugh Hugh says:

    Tove Jansson is probably still best known as the creator of the Moomins Having read The Summer Book some years ago, I was already aware that she was also a talented and perceptive writer for adults This book is deceptive at first glance it seems like a simple tale of life in a small village in the harsh Scandinavian winter, but it gradually reveals itself to be a devastating character study as well as a reflection on the nature of creativity It has two main characters Katri is a somewhat s Tove Jansson is probably still best known as the creator of the Moomins Having read The Summer Book some years ago, I was already aware that she was also a talented and perceptive writer for adults This book is deceptive at first glance it seems like a simple tale of life in a small village in the harsh Scandinavian winter, but it gradually reveals itself to be a devastating character study as well as a reflection on the nature of creativity It has two main characters Katri is a somewhat sociopathic outsider, who is responsible for a younger brother Mats who might be described in modern politically correct language as having learning difficulties Anna is a illustrator of children s books who lives alone in a large house inherited from her parents, whose relationship with the outside world is somewhat naive and trusting The plot centres on Katri s scheme to make herself Anna s protector and housekeeper, a role which enables her to dofor Mats Initially Anna appears to be acquiescent, but by the end of the book the relationship between the two women is muchcomplex The language is deceptively simple this is a spare, moving book


  3. Mariel Mariel says:

    The True Deceiver would have been a good book about living with a face you can accept yourself with if it didn t tell the reader what the lies and the truths were instead of ever actually living with those lies for the reader to figure out Do you know that scene in the 1980 s film Labyrinth a childhood favorite when the door keepers give Sarah Jennifer Connoly a riddle to solve One of them always tells the truth and the other always lies I could never figure it out my twin could I have The True Deceiver would have been a good book about living with a face you can accept yourself with if it didn t tell the reader what the lies and the truths were instead of ever actually living with those lies for the reader to figure out Do you know that scene in the 1980 s film Labyrinth a childhood favorite when the door keepers give Sarah Jennifer Connoly a riddle to solve One of them always tells the truth and the other always lies I could never figure it out my twin could I have seen that movie hundreds of times Screw the riddle Something isn t ALWAYS true and it isn t always a lie Not when it is about something that could change like people Protected Anna thinks of herself as a well spring of fluffy bunnies and nice things to say She s not So what Exposed Katri pats herself on the back for being brutally honest Oh wait, she wasn t She is honest when it suits her, same as everyone else she labels thusly She was a liar and a thief and lived with the rabbit lady under false pretenses It was never her right to determine if Anna was lying to herself or not If they had known each other without those obvious universal truths oh my god society functions with rules , if anything was allowed to be known other than straight up text imparted repeatedly I pretty much agree with David s review that Katri is littlethan a symbol for the author to hang her message on because of this Katri thinks she has the right to do what she wants Anna has done what she thinks she wants to do I can see her sitting alone in her house and going to sleep because she s so called above problems because she has money I could see Katri feeling she has the under dog s so called right to fight to the teeth because she doesn t have security How does it feel to be them Isn t it up to each person to decide, if they are lucky I know what their convictions are Katri has survivalist and Anna has this is how it is I could have gotten that without their mouth peices telling me, too.Isn t that the only way to have faith in people To know if they aren t just being nice to be nice Or forgive a bad day To live with them and read them to determine if they seem honest according to your own experience This fairytale moral of the story didn t work for me I would have rather watched Katri interact without the fan fare I always knew she was lying and that it was seen by her to be her right Guess what She s great at maths and she recognized that the snow figure of her made by the village kids honored her maths Great time to bring that up the first ever It would have been neat to determine that Katri might be wrong about everyone on my own Her past relations with the town was a good idea but the author rolls them out too plain sight, as she does with Katri and Anna As for the former boss she turned down not so gently Everyone gets rejected, right Too damned bad I don t get to see how he suggested a relationship only that he was hurt because I am told he is I am told she doesn t like him instead of getting to see it It would have been neat to determine if he really liked her before Katri wanted her brother to love her by doing nice things for him too buying the boat That doesn t make her so different, I think She wanted to be liked too How come she comes to think it her right to bluntly expose what she sees to be true others in the first place And please don t say yellow eyes and her off color hair People get to be how they are through a life time of human interactions Katri avoided them Did Jansson have to just tell me she was nervous with her brother, the one person she cared for That could have been wonderful Because he was hers That is a start The book doesn t say why he is the one person she cares for and that was good Because he is also different simple Couldn t I be allowed to watch them without the this means that and people are like this Where did she come by her insight I know how I developed mine I was avoiding people too and trying to stay safe whatever that is It means everything to me to read between people and pick up on how they choose to read others, what they are afraid to see and what they want to see Jansson opened her mouth too often and just told too much I hate that You aren t blowing my mind by saying people lie to get along with each other What do they want to hear and why Did Katri want for others to live as she did and wake up to the real world Yes, she gave books to her brother Jansson told me that she picked these books so her brother would see the real world as she knew it Nooooo Mouth piece It might be worth noting that I dislike fairy tales with easy answers The True Deceiver reads like one Answers and the questions already provided It should not be that way Katri and Anna comparing each other to learn about themselves could have been so good if they interacted without all that constant voice over of this means that I am disappointed that she went that way because if The True Deceiver is about being honest with yourself then telling yourself things is the road to the lying to yourself, right A German shepherd service dog growled at me in a pharmacy today I suspect it was a fake service dog because the woman clearly didn t need one She wasn t blind, crippled or deaf He was ruined like Katri s dog when Anna interferes in his obedience training Service dogs are supposed to be above common folk like me I was bad enough to get growled at for sitting in a chair across the aisle and to the side Sob why don t all dogs like me Can t they just pretend to be nice Now that I mention it, the lady also fake smiled at me This is getting ridiculous I already assume that 99.9% of people don t really like me the reasons vary There are rules of polite society Lie to me so that I will believe it Is that too much to ask I m sorry for the messiness of this review I wrote it on my iPod I usually only do that for those betterthanmasterandmargarita book reviews Editors note I am writing on a computer and I am only adding to the mess instead of cleaning it up I had meant to back up my preachiness with quotes from the text Intentions Sighs I unintentionally read a series of does anyone really like anyone books, I realized today Probably the last few books I read were about the impossibility of relationships I admit it is a hang up of mine I knew this guy who would complain to me about people bothering him but he was too nice to tell them to leave him alone I took that to mean me leave him alone and never approached him again and cut off all conversations he ever initiated years afterwards I sound nutso but he would initiate conversations with those he complained about too It isn t always possible to tell if people are having a bad day or if you really are bugging them It s just something to get over if you re ever going to know anyone I have to force myself to talk to people and I doubt it ll ever be any easier than it already is For what it is worth I am so much better than I used to be I should give myself credit when I compare me of today to how I was fifteen or even ten years ago Katri would have lookedsocially at ease than I was I watch all people like a hawk a bad ass eagle eyed hawk for my sign to fuck off, though It is hard for me to take seriously a book that presupposes one doesn t know that people can be nice without really meaning it I am terrified of that And how can you know when your cue to fuck off is happening when the book is surface talk I live between the lines I m probably always wrong too But not in books They are all I really got You don t ever get to know if you are right unless it is in a book It isn t worth it to know if you are right if the author hands it to you on a platter as Jansson did Okay book but definitely not one that I found all that rewarding I do want to know people


  4. Tony Tony says:

    Early, in this little gem of a novel, Katri Kling and Edvard Liljeberg have this dialogueI can take the mail up to Miss Aemelin, she said I can t let you do that it s the postman s job to deliver the mail It s a position of trust Katri lifted her face and opened her eyes at him in the hard light on the porch they were truly yellow Trust, she said Don t you trust me She paused and then repeated, I can take the mail up to Miss Aemelin It s important to me Are you trying to helpEarly, in this little gem of a novel, Katri Kling and Edvard Liljeberg have this dialogueI can take the mail up to Miss Aemelin, she said I can t let you do that it s the postman s job to deliver the mail It s a position of trust Katri lifted her face and opened her eyes at him in the hard light on the porch they were truly yellow Trust, she said Don t you trust me She paused and then repeated, I can take the mail up to Miss Aemelin It s important to me Are you trying to help You know I m not, Katri said I m doing it entirely for my own sake Do you trust me or don t you Katri s question is not only to Liljeberg, but to the reader as well The seemingly oxymoronic title begs the question How can a deceiver be true Katri wants to get enough money so she can have a boat built for her slow brother Mats He has been working on the plans Miss Aemelin is the honey pot that can make that happen In a series of small deceptions, Katri wins Miss Aemelin s trust But things will change.Miss Aemelin lives alone in the rabbit house It s called that because Miss Aemelin is the illustrator of books, known for the rabbits she paints on the letters of words She seems largely unaware Katri, blunt but good at numbers, warns her of the duplicity of neighbors Tove Jansson was an illustrator of children s books before she wrote serious fiction and she always managed to intrude herself as a character in her books Not just that, but the delightfully minimalist watercolor on the cover of the nyrb classic is the painting she drew for the original edition Enough of the plot, except to say, by book s end, you will wonder who the True Deceiver really is.I bookmarked wonderfully written passages that sang to notions of innocence and whether a person can change, but I won t bore you with them Just saying you should read this they re that good But you know how you get to a wonderful passage that you immediately read again and then again before you push forward and then you go back to immediately after the last page That s what happened when I read this I remember the dog at home, when I was a girl the one that killed chickens They tied a dead hen around his neck and he carried it around with him all day until he just lay there unmoving with his eyes shut in a morass of shame It was cruel There s nothing so hideously easy as giving someone a bad conscience


  5. lark benobi lark benobi says:

    This is a perfect novel in the same way The Great Gatsby is a perfect novel Not in the sense of best novel but, in that it perfectly executes its intention, its reason to exist as a novel Instead of a traditional protagonist antagonist relationship there are two antagonists of equal and opposing strength at the heart of this novel The only characteristic the two women share is the utter isolation each endures in daily life While part of a community, they are set apart from that community, This is a perfect novel in the same way The Great Gatsby is a perfect novel Not in the sense of best novel but, in that it perfectly executes its intention, its reason to exist as a novel Instead of a traditional protagonist antagonist relationship there are two antagonists of equal and opposing strength at the heart of this novel The only characteristic the two women share is the utter isolation each endures in daily life While part of a community, they are set apart from that community, the object of speculation and hostility from others, rather than of friendship and belonging To survive in their isolation, each of the women has developed a highly idiosyncratic way of coping with the world The choices each makes are so mutually incomprehensible that their clash is inevitable, and when it happens, it s heartbreaking.Of the many wonders in this novel, what shines most bright for me is what happens when the women are forced to recognize, and to adapt to, the needs and flaws of the other It s mysterious and untidy Wonderful


  6. RandomAnthony RandomAnthony says:

    Tove Jannson s The True Deciever is a curious, unsettling book Katri Kling speaks the truth with unceremonious judgment Anna Armelin illustrates children s books, focusing on the forest floor moss and adding misplaced, superfluous bunnies Katri s stoic dog, her brother Mat, and the residents of the novel s isolated Swedish town fill out this exploration of truth, deceit, and whether or not the outliers of self deception and blunt force truth can be reconciled Rarely dothan a few charac Tove Jannson s The True Deciever is a curious, unsettling book Katri Kling speaks the truth with unceremonious judgment Anna Armelin illustrates children s books, focusing on the forest floor moss and adding misplaced, superfluous bunnies Katri s stoic dog, her brother Mat, and the residents of the novel s isolated Swedish town fill out this exploration of truth, deceit, and whether or not the outliers of self deception and blunt force truth can be reconciled Rarely dothan a few characters interact concurrently in the course of the storyline Jannson relies on intense personal drama in small acts playing fetch with a dog, for example, can be an act of betrayal and subversion Characters pass hours in isolation, considering the nuance of careful planning, impulsive behavior, and others motivations Jannson does a remarkable job integrating snow and winter into the storyline The insular, almost surreal quality of walking alone through a supernaturally quiet Swedish night heightens the sense of remoteness Both Katri and Anna believe they re doing the right thing still, Katri s pursuit of the truth contains pinheads of duplicity, while Anna s clawing at safety and denial acknowledges the outside world s looming presence Jannson leaves the novel and reader uncertain with the possibility of muted but spring like growth.Do you remember that Todd Haynes movie Safe The True Deceiver reminded me somewhat of that film While the plots are different both allow quiet to embody its own action This novel jarred me a bit the characters are left raw and human, their dignity chipped, but with inherent possibility The True Deceiver is a painstakingly constructed book that delves deeper than its length and plain language might, at first glance, indicate Katri and Anna, the dog and the rabbit, beguile, like a dark fairy tale playing out in the plainest room.1 23 11 Edit I m moving this book to four stars after thinking of Evan s comments and how the book has haunted me the last few days


  7. David David says:

    You know how sometimes books have characters that are so preposterously symbolic that they fail to resemble normal human beings Meet Katri Kling, the yellow eyed outcast at the center of Jansson s The True Deceiver and recipient of the Simon from Lord of the Flies Overstated Symbol Award And don t worry if you forget that Katri has yellow eyes, by the way, because Jansson will remind you of it five dozentimes Katri is a naked concept masquerading as a character a cold, almost emotion You know how sometimes books have characters that are so preposterously symbolic that they fail to resemble normal human beings Meet Katri Kling, the yellow eyed outcast at the center of Jansson s The True Deceiver and recipient of the Simon from Lord of the Flies Overstated Symbol Award And don t worry if you forget that Katri has yellow eyes, by the way, because Jansson will remind you of it five dozentimes Katri is a naked concept masquerading as a character a cold, almost emotionless woman with a remarkable aptitude for maths who doesn t believe in fibs or the niceties of polite society In other words, she s basically robot running on a bitch operating system Although the novel is reasonably diverting, it tries too hard to be Meaningful with a Capital M Toward the end, as dogs revert to wolves and Katri grows a walnut sized heart, I lost my patience with all the pregnant details One of the rules of good writing I think is to never let em see you sweat And you can see Tove Jansson sweating like a Finnish pig all through this thing


  8. Jill Jill says:

    The True Deceiver may well be a perfect book Not a word is wasted and nothing is dumbed down it is, in turns, complex and subtle, psychologically astute, unsettling, and controlled.The language can only be described as spare taut, minimalistic, precise Take the opening lines It was an ordinary dark winter morning, and snow was still falling No window in the village showed a light In a mere two sentences, Tove Jansson sets up an entire mood and introduces a sense of danger.The two key ch The True Deceiver may well be a perfect book Not a word is wasted and nothing is dumbed down it is, in turns, complex and subtle, psychologically astute, unsettling, and controlled.The language can only be described as spare taut, minimalistic, precise Take the opening lines It was an ordinary dark winter morning, and snow was still falling No window in the village showed a light In a mere two sentences, Tove Jansson sets up an entire mood and introduces a sense of danger.The two key characters are the wolf , Katri Kling, a yellow eyed, wolfish young woman who stands on the outskirts of her Finnish village due to her bluntness and lack of social amenities Katri cares for her gentle and slow witted brother, Mats, and a nameless dog who obeys her every command She revels in her superiority to others My dog and I despise them We re hidden in our own secret life, concealed in our own innermost wilderness Her opponent and that is what she becomes is Anna Aemalin, an illustrator of children s books, who has achieved a degree of fame with her charming bunnies At first meeting, she is trusting, truthful, and, like Katri, very solitary As Katri gains her trust and breaks down her sense of security many themes come into play Among them How many different truths are there, and what justifies them What a person believes What a person accomplishes Self deception Is it only the result that counts Is it indeed safe and reassuring to believe in only one thing And ultimately who is the wolf and who is the rabbit As readers, we stand by rapt as we watch the caustic and subtle effects of deception on innocence and integrity The prize may be nothing less than personal identity My hat s off to translator Thomas Teal, who expertly and precisely translated this 1982 Finnish masterwork with all its nuances intact


  9. Teresa Teresa says:

    3.5Anna is a popular illustrator whose flowered rabbits have made her famous In hibernation during the winter, once spring arrives, she paints, with realism, the ground of the forest around her home She then paints realistic rabbits on her painted forest floor, and then inexplicably feels compelled to paint flowers on the rabbits bodies She doesn t know why she does it such are the demands of Art I m reminded of the so called Big Eyes artist and such a thing possibly being considered kits 3.5Anna is a popular illustrator whose flowered rabbits have made her famous In hibernation during the winter, once spring arrives, she paints, with realism, the ground of the forest around her home She then paints realistic rabbits on her painted forest floor, and then inexplicably feels compelled to paint flowers on the rabbits bodies She doesn t know why she does it such are the demands of Art I m reminded of the so called Big Eyes artist and such a thing possibly being considered kitsch Then there s the Blue Dog artist from my state whose work is not considered such Katri is a prickly young woman who has a plan to insinuate herself into Anna s home At least one of her actions could be considered psychopathic It s all in service to her undemanding, so called simple brother, a quiet teenager who, in many ways, hassense than either woman, though he too has a temper referred to obliquely that needs to be kept in check Katri is described,than once, in wolf like terms her profile, her yellow eyes, her familiar a wolfhound When Anna s personality starts to change due to Katri s machinations, Katri doesn t necessarily like it.The two women are described in broad strokes rabbit versus wolf yet the story leaves me with many subtle questions the good kind I have my own answer about the last sentence of the book, but yours may differ The illustration for the original cover, done by Jansson, is much better than the cover of the edition I read At least on the latter s title page there s a small square from the original s foreground and on the last endpaper there s a small rectangle from the original s landscape


  10. Joy Stephenson Joy Stephenson says:

    I ve got mixed feelings about this book On the one hand I found it compelling to read and stayed up late to finish it, because I couldn t put it down I especially liked the spare style of writing nothing was overblown On the other hand the main characters weren t realistic they were sort of fairytale symbols The theme of the book seems to be to explore how much truth honesty we want and whether people are actually happier with some level of kindly deception.