Fair Play, Tove Jansson

Just as I enjoyed Jansson's The True Deceiver, I greatly delighted in this book, a series of vignettes from the lives of artists Mari and Jonna. The exploration of the line between work and life, and of the creative process, was one of the most intriguing aspects. In particular, Jansson devotes a good deal of time to the idea that one must be able to toil artistically in long, solitary stretches.

On abiding silences:

There are empty spaces that must be respected -- those often long periods when a person can't see the pictures or find the words and needs to be left alone.

Why do we need this?:

After all, a period of creative grace can be short. Suddenly, and without warning, the pictures disappear, or they're chased away by some interference -- someone or something that irretrievably cuts off the fragile desire to capture an observation, an insight.

And a final reminder of the necessity -- the vitality -- of this kind of aloneness:

A daring thought was taking shape in her mind. She began to anticipate a solitude of her own, peaceful and full of possibility. She felt something close to exhilaration, of a kind that people can permit themselves when they are blessed with love.

The True Deceiver, Tove Jansson

This taut, enigmatic book probes the entanglement of two women in a ceaseless Scandinavian winter. 

There's a palpable loneliness in the peopling of Deceiver, and to some degree I wonder whether Jansson is saying that much or all of closeness is deception, or "flattery, empty adjectives, the whole sloppy, disgusting machinery that people engage in with impunity." It is only in convivial silence that true companionship really seems to emerge, and it is in isolation that Anna, a book illustrator, can thrive. And see clearly. While this might be bleak in the hands of a less able craftsman, the message is surprisingly hopeful when we finally depart from the story:

... [she] sat and waited for the morning mist to draw off through the woods. The silence she needed was complete. And when every bothersome element had departed, the forest floor emerged, moist and dark and ready to burst with all the things waiting to grow.

It "would have been unthinkable," Jansson writes, for Anna to depict the solemn scene by "cluttering the ground" with her signature flowery rabbits -- and so a new day, a new era, perhaps, is born.