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33. Tove Jansson, "Travelling Light"
el_staplador wrote in queerlit50
I've been reading a lot of Tove Jansson for this challenge, I know, and it's high praise to say of this one that it's my favourite so far. It's a collection of short stories - all of them dealing with people in alien situations - or perhaps unusual people in normal situations: the strange city child who comes to stay with an island family, the elderly gentleman with memory problems in a foreign city, the artists and the aspiring artists. From the commonplace ('The PE Teacher's Death') to the post-apocalyptic ('Shopping') via the bohemian ('An Eightieth Birthday') all of these stories deal with things - or people - that are slightly out of place. 'The Hothouse' made me smile. 'The Woman Who Borrowed Memories' was downright creepy.

I'm not sure that I can put my finger on why I liked these so much - perhaps it's the insight, the wisdom, which comes mingled with a healthy dose of humour. What about this:

'Choosing the present hadn't been easy. Grandma rang up and said, "Dear child, make sure you bring your young man so I can have a look at him, but don't go buying some expensive and unnecessary gift. At my age, I've got pretty much everything I want, plus better taste than most of my progeny. And I don't want to leave a load of rubbish for others to clean up after I've gone. Just pick out something simple and affectionate. And don't go bringing art into it - you'll only mess it up."

'We racked our brains. Grandma thinks of herself as so broad-minded and easygoing, but in fact she's forever burdening the family with modest requests which, in all their simplicity, can be a real pain. It would have been easy, for example, to choose her a stylish bowl in thick glass, but no, that would have been too bourgeois and not at all affectionate.'


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