Review: Letters from Klara and Other Stories by Tove Jansson

HARDCOVER; 163 P
TRANS. EILA PENNANEN
WSOY, 1991
SOURCE: FROM THE LIBRARY

Disclaimer: This book has, unfortunately, not been translated into English. Thus all the excerpts here have been translated by yours truly.

Kitty raised her hand and asked in a baby voice: Teacher, teacher! Can we play the game where one goes outside and then the rest tell the truth? – No, she is not inebriated, Eva thought to herself. She’s upset. What am I to do now..?

Tove Jansson explores the complicated games and relationships between people in her short story collection Letters from Klara and Other Stories. In her stories a group of middle-aged women try to regain their youthful vigor in a class reunion, and a young art student runs away from people without ever connecting with them. The eponymous short story, Letters from Klara, showcases the vast variety of different relationships and how a simple letter can reveal so much not only of the sender, but also of the receiver.

Letters to Klara and Other Stories is Tove Jansson’s second to last short story collection, and it was published in 1991. In a way this book could also be considered as her last original collection as her final book – The Winter Book – is more of a combination of previously published short stories along with a few unpublished ones. As I mentioned in my Tove100 update, I wanted to delve into Jansson’s later works, and it definitely paid off. Not to say that her earlier works are in anyway inferior, but this collection truly displayed Jansson’s talent of writing refined stories. The plethora of different characters in different stages of life displays Jansson’s writing at its best.

Letters to Klara and Other Stories contains an interesting mixture of characters ranging from stubborn independent child (not unlike Sophia in The Summer Book) to middle-aged men to elderly people who’ve seen and experienced it all. Reading the short stories, I could see connections to her previous works and I think Letters to Klara and Other Stories summed up many of the great qualities of Jansson’s writing. My favourite short stories must have been In the summer, Pirate rum, Lily pond and Trip to Riviera. However, there were some that did not resonate with me as much as the others. I’ve noticed that this is fairly common in the case of short story collections, and it definitely makes rating them harder. On one hand, I want to rate the stories I loved high, but one the other hand, I have to look at the collection as one entity.

All in all, I adore Jansson’s writing, her insights to life and relationships, as well as the life experience that is translated to the pages of her novels. Her writing and the stories all appear so easy and genuine. I’d definitely recommend this as one of my favourite Tove Jansson short story collections so far. Such a shame it hasn’t been translated.

4.5/5

tove100

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3 thoughts on “Review: Letters from Klara and Other Stories by Tove Jansson

  1. It always happens to me,when reading short stories,that some did not seduce me.
    But I think in this case we have to take into account the techniques used and so on.

    It seems that this is yet another book you’ve loved from Tove Jansson.I really must get myself to read some of her books one day.I always say this,but I mean it; I believe she is of the same metal as Dahl and Milne,although she is lesser known.

    • Yes, I’d love to hear what you think of her short stories. If this had been translated, I would have recommended it instantly. But I guess The Winter Book might be the best in giving a glimpse of her works throughout her career.

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