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An elderly caretaker at a large outdoor exhibition, called Art in Nature, finds that a couple have lingered on to bicker about the value of a picture; he has a surprising suggestion that will resolve both their row and his own ambivalence about the art market. A draughtsman's obsession with drawing locomotives provides a dark twist to a love story. A cartoonist takes over An elderly caretaker at a large outdoor exhibition, called Art in Nature, finds that a couple have lingered on to bicker about the value of a picture; he has a surprising suggestion that will resolve both their row and his own ambivalence about the art market. A draughtsman's obsession with drawing locomotives provides a dark twist to a love story. A cartoonist takes over the work of a colleague who has suffered a nervous breakdown only to discover that his own sanity is in danger. In these witty, sharp, often disquieting stories, Tove Jansson reveals the fault-lines in our relationship with art, both as artists and as consumers. Obsession, ambition, and the discouragement of critics are all brought into focus in these wise and cautionary tales.


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An elderly caretaker at a large outdoor exhibition, called Art in Nature, finds that a couple have lingered on to bicker about the value of a picture; he has a surprising suggestion that will resolve both their row and his own ambivalence about the art market. A draughtsman's obsession with drawing locomotives provides a dark twist to a love story. A cartoonist takes over An elderly caretaker at a large outdoor exhibition, called Art in Nature, finds that a couple have lingered on to bicker about the value of a picture; he has a surprising suggestion that will resolve both their row and his own ambivalence about the art market. A draughtsman's obsession with drawing locomotives provides a dark twist to a love story. A cartoonist takes over the work of a colleague who has suffered a nervous breakdown only to discover that his own sanity is in danger. In these witty, sharp, often disquieting stories, Tove Jansson reveals the fault-lines in our relationship with art, both as artists and as consumers. Obsession, ambition, and the discouragement of critics are all brought into focus in these wise and cautionary tales.

30 review for Art in Nature

  1. 4 out of 5

    Antonomasia

    3.5 One of those short story collections in which most pieces are about middle-class writers and artists. But with the word 'art' in the title, can one really complain? The nature descriptions are always lovely. Unlike some of the pieces in Eng-lang Jansson compilation A Winter Book, which have that boring, cold brittleness typical of contemporary litfic short stories, these stay just on the right side of that and mostly work rather well. YMMV. Art in Nature - The elderly caretaker of an outdoor 3.5 One of those short story collections in which most pieces are about middle-class writers and artists. But with the word 'art' in the title, can one really complain? The nature descriptions are always lovely. Unlike some of the pieces in Eng-lang Jansson compilation A Winter Book, which have that boring, cold brittleness typical of contemporary litfic short stories, these stay just on the right side of that and mostly work rather well. YMMV. Art in Nature - The elderly caretaker of an outdoor exhibition encounters some trespassers also old enough to know better. Musings on the purpose and value of art, centring on an exhibit of pictures wrapped in parcel paper. The Monkey - think this might be based on her father. Sculptor has a pet monkey (this was written in the 70s and is probably set several decades earlier) which often bites other people. It gets taken out in public and has a lead. He swears at it too much, not sure if that would make a difference; it might pick up on the aggressive tone. The Cartoonist - new artist takes over a long running syndicated newspaper strip after his predecessor disappeared. A story of American newspapermen. The work and the licensing were part of her own experience. White Lady - three cultured older ladies out for a drink, one a children's author like Jansson The Doll's House - a retired gay carpenter builds an exquisite 2m high wooden house, which causes some tension with his partner. (Like Fair Play, which was based on Jansson and her partner, this is subtle about the relationship and never overtly states it's romantic/sexual.) A Sense of Time - an old lady and her strait-laced adult grandson travel to Alaska; would have liked this to be longer. A Leading Role - a middle-aged minor actress tries to base her new part on her annoying cousin; she isn't aware of her tendency to use people at her convenience and doesn't try to do anything about it. The Locomotive - about a draughtsman and trainspotter; the nerdiness is much more subtle than in an Anglo-American story but still noticeable. I wondered if some of A Man Called Ove was based on part of this. It takes directions, both structurally and plotwise, that were unexpected from this author, even after reading three other Tove Jansson books for adults. Flower Child - slight and ethereal story of a Scandinavian proto-hippy woman who adapts to a conventional expat marriage and returns home in later life. It's as if the lens is in her homeland, as the part of her life when she's not there, although longer chronologically, gets less space. A Memory of the New World - three Finnish sisters who emigrated to New York in the pre-WWII period. Johanna, the sensible one, works hard as a seamstress. Siiri, the Lydia Bennet of the outfit, marries a dodgy Italian. The Great Journey - a lesbian couple (unlike Erik and Alexander in The Doll's House, it's mentioned they share a bed, though they are always just described as friends) try to manage travel plans and Rosa's carer relationship with her elderly mother. Their mouse nicknames for one another make it a bit twee, and it's quite uncomfortable to see that alongside their respective bossiness/meekness. A few days ago, I saw a GR review in which a gay man said that when he was young, it was difficult to find stories in which gay people had ordinary, routine lives and jobs: this is one in which they do. These summaries don't really capture the relaxing delicacy of the stories, and are more of a reminder for me. Read now because of the Women In Translation Month blog event.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Maren

    Finnish writer Tove Jansson is always a revelation. Known for her children's books about the Moomintrolls. Her books of short stories for grown ups and short novels are evocative, funny and sometimes painful. The most recent volume to be translated into English is Art in Nature. This collection, more than the others seems to focus on people who are either adrift or unwilling to move. She explores with a rare delicacy the play of emotions one person may experience in an hour or a lifetime, often Finnish writer Tove Jansson is always a revelation. Known for her children's books about the Moomintrolls. Her books of short stories for grown ups and short novels are evocative, funny and sometimes painful. The most recent volume to be translated into English is Art in Nature. This collection, more than the others seems to focus on people who are either adrift or unwilling to move. She explores with a rare delicacy the play of emotions one person may experience in an hour or a lifetime, often the petty annoyance, subtle jealousies, and self-involvement. While, for me, The Summer Book remains her masterpiece, it is well worth finding her short stories which are a group of elegant, compact revelations.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Snufkin

    Every time I pick up a Tove Jansson book I feel like a fresh breeze has blown through my mind and refreshed everything! Her short stories are poetic and songlike, using different tones to set up a small complete world in each one :) Despite the title this is a collection of darker stories than usual...but also ones that make me reflect on my own pattern of thoughts. I strongly felt Tove quietly sharing with us her own struggles and lessons from experiences in her own life. Thoroughly recommend!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dessi Walsh

    These stories, like all of Tove Jansson's writing, are so subtle and read so smoothly, that you can easily read the whole lot in one sitting. I had to make myself read one a day so that I didn't end up gliding on the surface. Jansson always amazes me with the way she offers a glimpse of a certain problem, a moment or a whole life - and that done almost dispassionately, with such precision. And yet her language is so rich and there is no lack of warmth in it, a combination that very few authors c These stories, like all of Tove Jansson's writing, are so subtle and read so smoothly, that you can easily read the whole lot in one sitting. I had to make myself read one a day so that I didn't end up gliding on the surface. Jansson always amazes me with the way she offers a glimpse of a certain problem, a moment or a whole life - and that done almost dispassionately, with such precision. And yet her language is so rich and there is no lack of warmth in it, a combination that very few authors can achieve.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Art in Nature presents us with extraordinarily intimate portraits of Finns and others caught up in a variety of situations. Taking its English title from the first of these eleven offerings by Tove Jansson, its original Swedish title was actually drawn from the fifth story, ‘The Doll’s House’. I can only assume it was retitled to avoid confusion with Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House, but it is just as apt as a label for the whole collection because many of the subjects have a connection with artistic Art in Nature presents us with extraordinarily intimate portraits of Finns and others caught up in a variety of situations. Taking its English title from the first of these eleven offerings by Tove Jansson, its original Swedish title was actually drawn from the fifth story, ‘The Doll’s House’. I can only assume it was retitled to avoid confusion with Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House, but it is just as apt as a label for the whole collection because many of the subjects have a connection with artistic endeavours, through sculpture, cartoons, drama, novels and painting. So it is that a caretaker of an exhibition attempts to reconcile a couple at odds over a painting they have acquired and a sculptor reacts badly to adverse reviews. An artist whose cartoon strip is widely syndicated suddenly gives up, leaving the job to a young successor. A novelist and her two old friends reveal anxieties below their confident exteriors while dining in a lakeside restaurant, and a tense relationship builds up between two men sharing a flat when one of them develops an obsession with building an ideal home in miniature within the apartment. The foibles of individuals and the precarious nature of relationships is both revealed and dissected in these short stories; they are indeed like intimate scenes we see in the rooms of a doll’s house, the reader rendered a voyeur for a brief moment. Several of the later tales also involve journeys: worries about setting off, or return voyages which transform the traveller into a stranger reliving past glories; a violent action precipitated because the reality doesn’t match up to the dream, or a plane journey across time zones and across certainties. By turns gentle and disturbing, opaque and revealing, Art in Nature blows in the cold wind and damp airs of northern climes, daring us to sit comfortably. There is art indeed in these tales set in sometimes bleak landscapes, an art which is simultaneously admirable and unsettling. I loved them. http://wp.me/s2oNj1-jansson

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    Short stories have to be very good to be worth anything. These are OK, but I didn't get involved in any of the situations, and more importantly didn't care about any of the characters. Maybe the translation got in the way. Short stories have to be very good to be worth anything. These are OK, but I didn't get involved in any of the situations, and more importantly didn't care about any of the characters. Maybe the translation got in the way.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Tove's short stories are quiet and incisive - I've seen them described as boring, which is, of course, a matter of personal taste, but also wrong! - even when she writes about obsession and murder. Mostly, though, these stories are about the small happenings in ordinary lives which give clues to the deep emotions underlying the actions of her characters, and that, for me, is where the interest and value of Tove's stories lie. Tove's short stories are quiet and incisive - I've seen them described as boring, which is, of course, a matter of personal taste, but also wrong! - even when she writes about obsession and murder. Mostly, though, these stories are about the small happenings in ordinary lives which give clues to the deep emotions underlying the actions of her characters, and that, for me, is where the interest and value of Tove's stories lie.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Elin Bladmyr

    Lots of novels in one book. Hard to write a review since every novel has to be judged by itself. Some where really good, some were boring and some woke a lot of thoughts. It's read by the author herself in the audioversion I listened to and for me it was better to listen than to read it. She has a very special writing style that bothered me. Lots of novels in one book. Hard to write a review since every novel has to be judged by itself. Some where really good, some were boring and some woke a lot of thoughts. It's read by the author herself in the audioversion I listened to and for me it was better to listen than to read it. She has a very special writing style that bothered me.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tilly

    Highlights: ‘The Doll’s House’ and ‘Flower Child’

  10. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    The following review is simply a short (as short as I could make it) expression of my thoughts on some of the stories in this collection. I wouldn’t say there are spoilers, but it certainly includes what I see as main themes and ideas in the stories I’ve discussed, so if you haven’t read them and want to dive in completely unbiased, I’d suggest that you stop reading here. Art in nature or The doll’s house (the original title) is a collection of short stories about art, its impact or the mind of The following review is simply a short (as short as I could make it) expression of my thoughts on some of the stories in this collection. I wouldn’t say there are spoilers, but it certainly includes what I see as main themes and ideas in the stories I’ve discussed, so if you haven’t read them and want to dive in completely unbiased, I’d suggest that you stop reading here. Art in nature or The doll’s house (the original title) is a collection of short stories about art, its impact or the mind of an artist. Tove Jansson presents us with 11 tales, some of which allow the reader to take a peek into a character’s home, others – into a character’s head. Oftentimes one is so strongly connected to the other, that the story would seem incomplete without either. These characters are mysterious, but vivid. The author builds them up and transforms them, she allows us to look inside their thoughts and follow their interactions in order to understand them, but only as far as they understand themselves. When they fail, so do we. The result is this sometimes confusing, but fascinating tornado of distorted dialogue, odd images and totally relatable, horrifying emotions. The doll’s house and A leading role present a character, forced to confront a reality they don’t necessarily enjoy or comprehend. And as a result of this conflict they manage to understand this reality a little bit better and thus find their own place in it. Alexander (The doll’s house) faces a major change in his life and becomes blind to reality, while focusing on his passion-project, the doll’s house. He chooses to remain oblivious to the world around him and instead starts a new life, dedicated to his creation. The one truly experiencing the destruction of reality as they knew it is his partner – Erik. He attempts to adjust to the new routine and yet finds himself thrown out over and over again. He struggles to become a part of Alexander’s dream world, not realizing that he already is one. The miscommunication between the two leads to the culmination of the story, where the doll’s house, the dream, is threatened by the reality of a crumbling relationship. A reality that can only be saved if noticed by both parties. A leading role is a story about three women: an actress, the character she must play and a woman resembling that character. These three personalities interact and intertwine in a complex web of emotions to, finally, merge into one. Maria, the actress, believes she is nothing like her character, but already in the beginning of the story it is mentioned that her agent sees her as a professional and she could take direction, but there wasn’t a whole lot more to her than that, which she ought to understand herself. This one sentence serves as premise for the entire story. We get to witness how Maria transforms, follows directions while not entirely realizing what she’s doing. The first time she looks in the mirror she sees clear distinction between herself and the role she must play – an ordinary woman with nothing special about her. Throughout the story she continues to observe that reflection in an attempt to become more like her character and therefore changes her own features. Step by step she begins to appreciate not only the character, but also the real woman, resembling it - Frida. She is never fully capable of becoming them, but she manages to understand how extraordinary their simplicity is. She studies Frida’s features, posture and character and learns not just to mimic them, but to value them. Eventually she begins to see the life in what she had thought was lifeless. And the better she understands that, the less distinct the images of the three women become. Until that point she’s lived in a world of loneliness, because she’s never had appreciation for a simpler reality, her own reality. This world’s been hidden by a fog, which only lifts, when she grasps the beauty in the simplicity she has spent her life running from. In contrast, The locomotive and White lady end on a different, a lot more confusing note. The narrator in The locomotive is too distant and isolated from reality. He never even attempted to become a part of it, it horrifies him to a point where he can’t continue to write when his thoughts or memories become too personal. He attempts to separate the individual from the character, which can be easily noticed in his use of pronouns. He is constantly swapping between first- and third-person narration, battling to stay away from the memories he is trying to put into writing but ultimately fails. Over the course of the story the interruptions become less and less frequent and more fluent than they were in the beginning until eventually the narrator gives up on the third-person narration and merges his last personal note with the story by, consciously or subconsciously, not ending the note with a full stop, but continuing with the story in the same sentence. He writes in an attempt to make sense of events, but fails. And we only get to understand these events as much as he does, if not even less. Tove Jansson takes a different approach to the characters in White lady. The reader is not given as direct access to their thoughts. Here, she uses a very realistic, but distorted dialogue to capture not just the joy, but the sadness of all three ladies. The short and not always fluent lines of dialogue reflect the atmosphere in the restaurant, but also in the ladies hearts. They’ve found themselves in a time, which is no longer entirely theirs and accepting that, leaving the glamour of the past in the past, appears to be next to impossible. The entire evening resembles a ritual or a feast, the final celebration of a life well lived, before one final journey in Charon’s ferry. Art in nature happens to be the title of the English edition. And after having read the story, I finally understand this choice. Art in nature can serve as a perfect metaphor for the collection. Each short story is a piece of art. Unique and still … not entirely. There’s a theme, a motif which connects them. Makes them all a part of the same exhibition. It is, however, still up to the reader to find the features which make each piece stand out and those, which show its connection to the rest. The main character, the night guard, has a fascinating way of perceiving the world around him. He sees pieces of it and interprets them, creates whole images from shards. He doesn’t need to see the people coming in and out of the gallery to get to know them. Instead, he creates an image of each person after only having seen their feet. But that’s enough. His imagination allows him to build up an entire character. He interprets people just like he interprets the art he’s surrounded by. Art in nature can also be seen as a story about truth. Objectivity appears unrealistic and unreachable. Both in art and nature. Svea embodies the fear of disappointment when the veil of mystery is lifted, the fear of being wrong about whatever is hiding beneath it, of being wrong in a situation where it shouldn’t be possible to be right or wrong. Mystery in art gives its consumers freedom. Freedom to imagine, dream and interpret, not being bound by some need to be objective or to serve reality. Nevertheless, it is perhaps best shown how surreal reality can be in A sense of time. This story discusses in further detail the idea of freedom in denying what is real and routine, it opens the reader’s eyes and tries to show them a new way to look at the world, not a practical, but a beautiful one; one which allows them a peace of mind which, objectively, should be unreachable. And it is up to them to decide if life in an illusion resembles a dream or a nightmare. There is a lot more that can be said of Tove Jansson’s stories. One could write pages praising her mastery of language, her beautiful landscapes and understanding of human relationships. But what made these tales special to me was their depiction of art and its role in both the understanding and bending of reality. They are as vivid and confusing as the world around us, each of them is unique and open to interpretation. They make you think and let you imagine. Mostly, they let you imagine. And that is why I’ve rated Art in nature/Dockskåpet ”5/5”.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    The following review is simply a short (as short as I could make it) expression of my thoughts on some of the stories in this collection. I wouldn’t say there are spoilers, but it certainly includes what I see as main themes and ideas in the stories I’ve mentioned, so if you haven’t read them and want to dive in completely unbiased, I’d suggest that you stop reading here. Art in nature or The doll’s house (the original title) is a collection of short stories about art, its impact or the mind of The following review is simply a short (as short as I could make it) expression of my thoughts on some of the stories in this collection. I wouldn’t say there are spoilers, but it certainly includes what I see as main themes and ideas in the stories I’ve mentioned, so if you haven’t read them and want to dive in completely unbiased, I’d suggest that you stop reading here. Art in nature or The doll’s house (the original title) is a collection of short stories about art, its impact or the mind of an artist. Tove Jansson presents us with 11 tales, some of which allow the reader to take a peek into a character’s home, others – into a character’s head. Oftentimes one is so strongly connected to the other, that the story would seem incomplete without either. These characters are mysterious, but vivid. The author builds them up and transforms them, she allows us to look inside their thoughts and follow their interactions in order to understand them, but only as far as they understand themselves. When they fail, so do we. The result is this sometimes confusing, but fascinating tornado of distorted dialogue, odd images and totally relatable, horrifying emotions. The doll’s house and A leading role present a character, forced to confront a reality they don’t necessarily enjoy or comprehend. And as a result of this conflict they manage to understand this reality a little bit better and thus find their own place in it. Alexander (The doll’s house) faces a major change in his life and becomes blind to reality, while focusing on his passion-project, the doll’s house. He chooses to remain oblivious to the world around him and instead starts a new life, dedicated to his creation. The one truly experiencing the destruction of reality as they knew it is his partner – Erik. He attempts to adjust to the new routine and yet finds himself thrown out over and over again. He struggles to become a part of Alexander’s dream world, not realizing that he already is one. The miscommunication between the two leads to the culmination of the story, where the doll’s house, the dream, is threatened by the reality of a crumbling relationship. A reality that can only be saved if noticed by both parties. A leading role is a story about three women: an actress, the character she must play and a woman resembling that character. These three personalities interact and intertwine in a complex web of emotions to, finally, merge into one. Maria, the actress, believes she is nothing like her character, but already in the beginning of the story it is mentioned that her agent sees her as a professional and she could take direction, but there wasn’t a whole lot more to her than that, which she ought to understand herself. This one sentence serves as premise for the entire story. We get to witness how Maria transforms, follows directions while not entirely realizing what she’s doing. The first time she looks in the mirror she sees clear distinction between herself and the role she must play – an ordinary woman with nothing special about her. Throughout the story she continues to observe that reflection in an attempt to become more like her character and therefore changes her own features. Step by step she begins to appreciate not only the character, but also the real woman, resembling it - Frida. She is never fully capable of becoming them, but she manages to understand how extraordinary their simplicity is. She studies Frida’s features, posture and character and learns not just to mimic them, but to value them. Eventually she begins to see the life in what she had thought was lifeless. And the better she understands that, the less distinct the images of the three women become. Until that point she’s lived in a world of loneliness, because she’s never had appreciation for a simpler reality, her own reality. This world’s been hidden by a fog, which only lifts, when she grasps the beauty in the simplicity she has spent her life running from. In contrast, The locomotive and White lady end on a different, a lot more confusing note. The narrator in The locomotive is too distant and isolated from reality. He never even attempted to become a part of it, it horrifies him to a point where he can’t continue to write when his thoughts or memories become too personal. He attempts to separate the individual from the character, which can be easily noticed in his use of pronouns. He is constantly swapping between first- and third-person narration, battling to stay away from the memories he is trying to put into writing but ultimately fails. Over the course of the story the interruptions become less and less frequent and more fluent than they were in the beginning until eventually the narrator gives up on the third-person narration and merges his last personal note with the story by, consciously or subconsciously, not ending the note with a full stop, but continuing with the story in the same sentence. He writes in an attempt to make sense of events, but fails. And we only get to understand these events as much as he does, if not even less. Tove Jansson takes a different approach to the characters in White lady. The reader is not given as direct access to their thoughts. Here, she uses a very realistic, but distorted dialogue to capture not just the joy, but the sadness of all three ladies. The short and not always fluent lines of dialogue reflect the atmosphere in the restaurant, but also in the ladies hearts. They’ve found themselves in a time, which is no longer entirely theirs and accepting that, leaving the glamour of the past in the past, appears to be next to impossible. The entire evening resembles a ritual or a feast, the final celebration of a life well lived, before one final journey in Charon’s ferry. Art in nature happens to be the title of the English edition. And after having read the story, I finally understand this choice. Art in nature can serve as a perfect metaphor for the collection. Each short story is a piece of art. Unique and still … not entirely. There’s a theme, a motif which connects them. Makes them all a part of the same exhibition. It is, however, still up to the reader to find the features which make each piece stand out and those, which show its connection to the rest. The main character, the night guard, has a fascinating way of perceiving the world around him. He sees pieces of it and interprets them, creates whole images from shards. He doesn’t need to see the people coming in and out of the gallery to get to know them. Instead, he creates an image of each person after only having seen their feet. But that’s enough. His imagination allows him to build up an entire character. He interprets people just like he interprets the art he’s surrounded by. Art in nature can also be seen as a story about truth. Objectivity appears unrealistic and unreachable. Both in art and nature. Svea embodies the fear of disappointment when the veil of mystery is lifted, the fear of being wrong about whatever is hiding beneath it, of being wrong in a situation where it shouldn’t be possible to be right or wrong. Mystery in art gives its consumers freedom. Freedom to imagine, dream and interpret, not being bound by some need to be objective or to serve reality. Nevertheless, it is perhaps best shown how surreal reality can be in A sense of time. This story discusses in further detail the idea of freedom in denying what is real and routine, it opens the reader’s eyes and tries to show them a new way to look at the world, not a practical, but a beautiful one; one which allows them a peace of mind which, objectively, should be unreachable. And it is up to them to decide if life in an illusion resembles a dream or a nightmare. There is a lot more that can be said of Tove Jansson’s stories. One could write pages praising her mastery of language, her beautiful landscapes and understanding of human relationships. But what made these tales special to me was their depiction of art and its role in both the understanding and bending of reality. They are as vivid and confusing as the world around us, each of them is unique and open to interpretation. They make you think and let you imagine. Mostly, they let you imagine. And that is why I’ve rated Art in nature/Dockskåpet ”5/5”.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kirsty

    The entirety of Art in Nature and Other Stories has been translated by Thomas Teal, who won the Rochester Best Translated Book Award in 2011. This prize sets him in wonderful stead to translate one of Finland’s finest authors and to introduce more of her stories to a wider readership. Art in Nature and Other Stories comprises eleven short stories, all of which are mesmerising from the outset. The title story, ‘Art in Nature’, tells of a ‘very old’ caretaker who has been put in charge of looking a The entirety of Art in Nature and Other Stories has been translated by Thomas Teal, who won the Rochester Best Translated Book Award in 2011. This prize sets him in wonderful stead to translate one of Finland’s finest authors and to introduce more of her stories to a wider readership. Art in Nature and Other Stories comprises eleven short stories, all of which are mesmerising from the outset. The title story, ‘Art in Nature’, tells of a ‘very old’ caretaker who has been put in charge of looking after a large art exhibition when it closes each night. He works alone through ‘the long, lonely evenings’, finding solace in the peace around him. One night he comes across a man and woman who have made their way into the exhibition past closing time. Rather than throw them out as protocol dictates, an impassioned and rather surprising discussion about art ensues. The stories themselves are all rather varied, but there are many which feature protagonists who are artists or are involved with art in some way – a sculptor, a cartoonist, an actress and a writer of children’s books, amongst others. A story entitled ‘The Doll’s House’ follows an upholsterer with a love of classic novels ‘which enchanted him with their heavy patience’, who constructs an elaborate wooden house, assembling it bit by bit: it ‘would be allowed to grow however it wished, organically, room by room’. The characters in every story are beautifully portrayed. All are well-developed and feel like real, fully fleshed out people, and not a single one feels as though their construction has been rushed. Many touches of autobiography can be found throughout. Jansson’s prose is absolutely and often startlingly beautiful. She describes everyday scenes with such deftness and skill that it feels as though we are viewing the scenes afresh. The reader is essentially given a new perspective through Jansson’s words, in which the wonders of the world are evident. In ‘Art in Nature’, she describes how the sculptures in the exhibition ‘grew up out of the grass, huge dark monuments in smooth incomprehensible formlessness or in tangled convulsions, challenging and disturbing’. The ideas woven throughout the majority of the stories are just lovely. A group of young people in ‘White Lady’ are described as being ‘like a flock of birds… that settle for a moment, for as long as it suits them’. Ali Smith, one of my favourite all-time authors (as Jansson is too), states ‘that there can still be as-yet untranslated fiction by [Tove] Jansson is simultaneously an aberration and a delight, like finding buried treasure’ – a sentiment which could not be more true. To build up such rich, detailed stories within just a few pages as Jansson does here is masterful, and Teal’s translation of her work is faultless. Art in Nature and Other Stories is a pure delight from beginning to end. It is an absolute joy to read and certainly reaffirms Jansson’s position as a wonderful storyteller and a master of her craft.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Gareth

    It's taken me a long time, several library renewals, and a degree of persistence to finish reading this collection of short stories. It's not that they were badly written, or uninteresting, but that they were all very weird. When I tell you that Tove Jansson wrote the Moomin stories you will understand. I never warmed to those strange creatures. In fact I always found them rather disturbing. I'm glad I made it to the last page but I won't be rushing back for more. It's taken me a long time, several library renewals, and a degree of persistence to finish reading this collection of short stories. It's not that they were badly written, or uninteresting, but that they were all very weird. When I tell you that Tove Jansson wrote the Moomin stories you will understand. I never warmed to those strange creatures. In fact I always found them rather disturbing. I'm glad I made it to the last page but I won't be rushing back for more.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ugh

    I like to throw myself a curve ball every once in a while. This is my missus' book, so it was readily available. Some short stories from the creater of the Moomins? Yeah alright. Mostly I didn't like them. They tend towards the melancholic, and towards the uneventful. A few were pretty good. The one I liked least was the one my missus liked best. Go figure. I like to throw myself a curve ball every once in a while. This is my missus' book, so it was readily available. Some short stories from the creater of the Moomins? Yeah alright. Mostly I didn't like them. They tend towards the melancholic, and towards the uneventful. A few were pretty good. The one I liked least was the one my missus liked best. Go figure.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    In this #Tove100 year that celebrates the work of Tove Jansson, I have Claire McAlpine to thank fo a review of 'Art in Nature' that had me very curious about this collection of stories. The characters are especially vivid, often quirky, and I can't help but see a visual artist's hand in the way they take shape. In this #Tove100 year that celebrates the work of Tove Jansson, I have Claire McAlpine to thank fo a review of 'Art in Nature' that had me very curious about this collection of stories. The characters are especially vivid, often quirky, and I can't help but see a visual artist's hand in the way they take shape.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    I like to read other reviews of a book, before I write my own review here. That includes literary critics' reviews, but also other Goodreads reader reviews. It cracks me up that another reader of ART IN NATURE (while giving the book two stars) said that Jansson's writing is "disturbing." Another two-star reviewer said the stories were "uneventful." In revealing their disappointment, the reviewers have stumbled upon the main point of Jansson's writing. As with much rewarding fiction, Jansson's sh I like to read other reviews of a book, before I write my own review here. That includes literary critics' reviews, but also other Goodreads reader reviews. It cracks me up that another reader of ART IN NATURE (while giving the book two stars) said that Jansson's writing is "disturbing." Another two-star reviewer said the stories were "uneventful." In revealing their disappointment, the reviewers have stumbled upon the main point of Jansson's writing. As with much rewarding fiction, Jansson's short stories are not "about" "what happened." If there's something disturbing, or if life is uneventful, it's because the human experience is disturbing. Jansson as an artist has a side that addresses in these stories the things that we wish would happen, the things we wish had never happened, and how (or whether) we deal with these things in the process of living our lives. The most effective of these stories (for me) was THE LOCOMOTIVE, but apart from the story which gives the English language edition its name (ART IN NATURE), I found all the stories engaging, provocative and reflective of Jansson's outlook and perception. If you read, say, her Moomin stories to find out "what happened," you will be mildly amused, but will also be missing the deeper layer of meaning embedded in the narrative, the setting and the characters' interactions. I doubt that another book of hers will satisfy me as much as THE SUMMER BOOK did, but I'm looking forward to reading more of her stories, as I found this collection well worthwhile.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Infamous Sphere

    Lovely, weird, sometimes kind of disturbing stories by Tove Jansson, most famous for being the creator of the moomins and also a Big Gay Artist which, as a fellow Big Gay Artist, is extremely my thing. There are two stories in here featuring extremely nonchalant depictions of queer couples - it's not really A Thing that the couples are queer, although it's extremely obvious that they are and one of the women in the F/F couple does worry about what her old mother might think (the story is about h Lovely, weird, sometimes kind of disturbing stories by Tove Jansson, most famous for being the creator of the moomins and also a Big Gay Artist which, as a fellow Big Gay Artist, is extremely my thing. There are two stories in here featuring extremely nonchalant depictions of queer couples - it's not really A Thing that the couples are queer, although it's extremely obvious that they are and one of the women in the F/F couple does worry about what her old mother might think (the story is about her trying to balance her loyalties between her girlfriend and her ageing mother.) When reading this, I realised that outside of personal essays and editorials, I don't tend to see a lot written about queer couples when the story is nonchalant and not specifically to do with their queerness. Go Tove!

  18. 5 out of 5

    bup

    I finished a book! Take that, Corvid-19 quarantine inertia! OK, I'm kind of an idiot - I didn't realize this was a book of her short stories, thinking it was one of her typical novellas, until around "Chapter" 4 I began to wonder when any of these people might start to meet each other. So maybe the weirdness of the world today is affecting my reading comprehension, as it has most other facets of my life that require concentration. But I think I got the swing of it by the end. Or maybe it's just a I finished a book! Take that, Corvid-19 quarantine inertia! OK, I'm kind of an idiot - I didn't realize this was a book of her short stories, thinking it was one of her typical novellas, until around "Chapter" 4 I began to wonder when any of these people might start to meet each other. So maybe the weirdness of the world today is affecting my reading comprehension, as it has most other facets of my life that require concentration. But I think I got the swing of it by the end. Or maybe it's just a coincidence that the last few stories were my favorites. Her ability to write in ten words what other authors need two hundred for really shines toward the end, and her ability to communicate in what's unsaid what other people need to say is there too. Well worth a read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jane Ireland

    This has been my company on my train commute for a while now, and a bit like an album where there are lots of hit and misses on it...so it was for me with this collection. To be fair I guess that's to be expected with short story collections....I loved a few of the stories but some just didn't engage me that much. There's an awful lot here addressing social isolation and not being part of the crowd which appealed, and I think Jansson writes male characters very well. I just wish there were a few This has been my company on my train commute for a while now, and a bit like an album where there are lots of hit and misses on it...so it was for me with this collection. To be fair I guess that's to be expected with short story collections....I loved a few of the stories but some just didn't engage me that much. There's an awful lot here addressing social isolation and not being part of the crowd which appealed, and I think Jansson writes male characters very well. I just wish there were a few more hits to outweigh the misses for me. I will however read the Summer book which I have on my tbr read at some point but doubt it will be any time soon.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    Tove’s writing is always so gentle, intimate and smooth. The two stories in this collection that I felt the most connected to were the ones revolving around romantic pairs of the same gender: ‘The Doll’s House’ and ‘The Great Journey’. In these tales, Tove is able to convey truly incredible depth and complexity in extraordinarily few words and with great delicacy. As always, her writing has left me feeling very quiet and introspective!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jackie Carreira

    A beautiful collection of short stories. Not quite as beautiful as A Winter Book, hence the missing star, but written with a true artist's eye nevertheless. Tove Jansson had a remarkable way of painting pictures with her stories. A great book to dip in and out of when you need to get lost. A beautiful collection of short stories. Not quite as beautiful as A Winter Book, hence the missing star, but written with a true artist's eye nevertheless. Tove Jansson had a remarkable way of painting pictures with her stories. A great book to dip in and out of when you need to get lost.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Interesting collection of short stories but I was expecting more of a Finish influence and a nature writing experience which I didn't get. The stories could be set just about anywhere are are more about the people than about the setting. All good but not what I was hoping for. Interesting collection of short stories but I was expecting more of a Finish influence and a nature writing experience which I didn't get. The stories could be set just about anywhere are are more about the people than about the setting. All good but not what I was hoping for.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Simms

    I found this series of short stories very haunting - a real exploration of the ambiguities of life. I can see the evolution from her Moomin series, there’s a similar feeling they evoke. I didn’t exactly enjoy them, but found them hugely compelling to read, particularly the later ones in the book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Karina

    I loved the diversity of these short stories. They're all understated and seem to capture the inner workings of people and their relations without spelling them out. I love that Jansson manages to do so in 12 different stories without it seeming the slightest boring or repetitive. I loved the diversity of these short stories. They're all understated and seem to capture the inner workings of people and their relations without spelling them out. I love that Jansson manages to do so in 12 different stories without it seeming the slightest boring or repetitive.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Katerina Ruud

    That was unexpectedly intense, but also relaxing. Thank you, Tove Jansson.

  26. 4 out of 5

    peppersocks

    Reflections and lessons learned: Anna - a name as plain as milk... I enjoyed some of these, but it felt disconnected as a collection? Some strange variety

  27. 5 out of 5

    Anja

    Really easy read, would recommend to others, Jansson is a stunning writer.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Hannes Schievink

    Adept and romantic takes on art and art-making. Some more cryptical than others. Lovely piece.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Pioup

    2017 Reading Challenge: A book written by someone you admire

  30. 4 out of 5

    Judith Rich

    I am so pleased more of Jansson's adult works are being translated and made available in the UK. I read a couple of Moomin books as a child then was led to "The Summer Book" by my trusty "Good Reading Guide". Since then, I've read adult works as I've found them. This isn't my favourite, but I love her writing (or the translator's). My best friend and I usually like the same kind of books and we both love Jansson. We were discussing how reading these really give you an idea of place and the light I am so pleased more of Jansson's adult works are being translated and made available in the UK. I read a couple of Moomin books as a child then was led to "The Summer Book" by my trusty "Good Reading Guide". Since then, I've read adult works as I've found them. This isn't my favourite, but I love her writing (or the translator's). My best friend and I usually like the same kind of books and we both love Jansson. We were discussing how reading these really give you an idea of place and the light there, even though neither of us has ever been to Finland. She said it's like the light in the Wallander TV movies (UK version - it's always raining in the Swedish ones!) and because I'm a pretentious film buff, I said it's like the setting of an Ingmar Bergman film (but then Henning Mankell was Bergman's son-in-law, so same place). And yes, we know they are in Sweden, but it's the closest we can picture - those beautiful islands in the Baltic. (Fights urge to go and book holiday to Scandinavia immediately).

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