The True Deceiver

The True Deceiver

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Deception—the lies we tell ourselves and the lies we tell others—is the subject of this, Tove Jansson’s most unnerving and unpredictable novel. Here Jansson takes a darker look at the subjects that animate the best of her work, from her sensitive tale of island life, The Summer Book, to her famous Moomin stories: solitude and community, art and life, love and hate. 

Snow has been falling on the village all winter long. It covers windows and piles up in front of doors. The sun rises late and sets early, and even during the day there is little to do but trade tales. This year everybody’s talking about Katri Kling and Anna Aemelin. Katri is a yellow-eyed outcast who lives with her simpleminded brother and a dog she refuses to name. She has no use for the white lies that smooth social intercourse, and she can see straight to the core of any problem. Anna, an elderly children’s book illustrator, appears to be Katri’s opposite: a respected member of the village, if an aloof one. Anna lives in a large empty house, venturing out in the spring to paint exquisitely detailed forest scenes. But Anna has something Katri wants, and to get it Katri will take control of Anna’s life and livelihood. By the time spring arrives, the two women are caught in a conflict of ideals that threatens to strip them of their most cherished illusions.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590176849
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publication date: 10/17/2012
Series: NYRB Classics Series
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 380,463
File size: 474 KB

About the Author

Tove Jansson (1914–2001) was born in Helsinki into Finland’s Swedish-speaking minority. Her father was a sculptor and her mother a graphic designer and illustrator. Winters were spent in the family’s art-filled studio and summers in a fisherman’s cottage on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, a setting that would later figure in Jansson’s writing for adults and children. Jansson loved books as a child and set out from an early age to be an artist. Her first illustration was published when she was fifteen years old; four years later a picture book appeared under a pseudonym. After attending art schools in both Stockholm and Paris, she returned to Helsinki, where in the 1940s and ’50s she won acclaim for her paintings and murals. From 1929 until 1953 Jansson drew humorous illustrations and political cartoons for the left-leaning anti-Fascist Finnish-Swedish magazine Garm, and it was there that what was to become Jansson’s most famous creation, Moomintroll, a hippopotamus-like character with a dreamy disposition, made his first appearance. Jansson went on to write about the adventures of Moomintroll, the Moomin family, and their curious friends in a long-running comic strip and in a series of books for children that have been translated throughout the world, inspiring films, several television series, an opera, and theme parks in Finland and Japan. Jansson also wrote eleven novels and short story collections for adults, including The Summer Book and The True Deceiver (both available as NYRB Classics). In 1994 she was awarded the Prize of the Swedish Academy. Jansson and her companion, the artist Tuulikki Pietilä, continued to live part-time in a cottage on the remote outer edge of the Finnish archipelago until 1991.

Ali Smith is the author of seven works of fiction, including the novel Hotel World, which was short-listed for the Booker Prize in 2001, and The Accidental, which won the Whitbread Award in 2005 and was short-listed for the 2005 Man Booker Prize.

Thomas Teal has translated Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book,Sun City, and Fair Play, for which he was awarded the Bernard Shaw Prize for translation from the Swedish for the years 2007–2009.

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The True Deceiver 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read and enjoyed Jansson's Moomin series for children, so I decided to give this one a try; I wasn't disappointed. The story is set in a small town in the dead of winter. Specifics aren't given about the exact time, nor the exact location... but that doesn't really matter. The plot slowly emerges, like blades of grass poking through snow. It's to the point, without indulgent prose. For that alone, I would recommend this book. It's well-written, compelling, and not "stuffy" to read.
AnnieMod on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the small northern village of Västerby (the original town with this name is in Sweden; where Jansson's village is is anyone's guess), the winter is keeping everyone inside. Except for Katri Kling and her dog. This is how Jansson starts her novel. Without any references of time - if anything the novel makes sure not to mention any recent event - making the story timeless. We get the how and the where but the when never gets revealed. And it is not needed - because the story is as old as the world - the story of the battle between truth and lie; between reality and dreams. Katri Kling had been living for years with her younger brother (now a teenager and "a bit slow") at the fringe of society in Västerby. She is different - her eye color does not match what everyone expects, her hair is the wrong color. In a small place like Västerby not being local is almost a crime. To add to that, she believes that any truth should be spelled out, that the little lies and niceties that the polite society demands are nonsense. But when some of her decisions and advices are revealed, Katri emerges as a calculating and scheming person - the truth can be bended and she is pretty good at it. And as chance will have it, the village has one more loner - Anna Aemelin - an wealthy artist that lives alone and creates beautiful watercolors of the ground in the forest... with rabbits with flowery fur thrown everywhere. When the novel opens, Katri had decided that she wants to use Anna and is planning her way into the older woman home and heart. When Anna's and Katri's worlds finally collide, it is obvious that nothing will be the same ever again. Katri's cunning and calculating ways have nothing to do with the artistic and dreamlike world Anna had been living in - and Katri will not allow her to keep living in it. And while the two worlds clash, the life in the village continues the same way it had always been going - and we are treated to glimpses and views from it, intermingled with the drama that happens in the lives of the protagonists.It is a novel of change; a novel of growing up (mentally if not physically) - Anna looses all treats that make her who she is... and need to rediscover herself - except that the new Anna is not the innocent person she was before Katri injected herself in her life. Using the truth, Katri manages to deceive Anna in more than one ways, to use her naivete to gain what she needs. And in a way it is a novel of everything ugly that hides in people's hearts. But it is also a novel of hope - because at the end, even if all old is ruined, the new is not necessarily bad. Maybe Anna will never be the same, maybe she will never have all that she had been used to. But Katri had changed as well - without realizing and without expecting it. The last sentence of the novel is the ultimate summary of the whole novel - and it works much better than any epilogue could have worked. It is final and unyielding. A highly recommended read - although it is not a cheerful and easy read.PS: Do not read the introduction before you read the novel. I enjoyed it a lot but I am happy I read the novel first.
RobinDawson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent novel which deserves to be better known and more widely read. Very atmospheric ¿ unsettling, mysterious, odd, icy, brittle, subtle, and full of surprises. The novel has lots of cross currents and opposing elements. The characters appear outwardly calm, yett the machinations and struggles going on underneath the surface generate a sinister tension.The title is perfect, with its inherent contradiction. It reads very well ¿ the prose is sharp and clear ¿ all credit to the translator.
marplebookworm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book.On the first reading I enjoyed it but didn't quite "get it`" but, like an elusive thought, it kept playing on my mind.Katri and her dog were as one: alone, different, isolated in a hostile and uncomfortable world that they have difficulty fitting into. They learn to play a part that allows them to survive, straightjacketed perhaps from reality and from their true selves, their true natures. Katri has learned to "show her teeth" but doesn't appear to know how to smile. Is this deceit or survival? Her yellow "different" eyes widen when alarmed and for a moment we are allowed to glimpse her true identity, her inner soul.As the book goes on I was both alarmed and appalled initially at her deception. But why, when so many of us are blinded to the truth, unable to even see it, let alone to confront it, to know what we truly want from life. And so we go on acting, playing a part that is expected of us, hiding behind superficial veneers, unable to confront and talk about the truth because it is too uncomfortable, too painful, too cruel?Jansson gradually strips away the layers. Here is a book that appears, at first, to be simple but as soon as you dig below the surface and the snow starts to clear, the true nature and feelings of the main protaganists can be revealed. So the truth, the cruel and uncomfortable truth of their real identities (and so too ours) , their real ruthlessness and their real personalities are allowed to reveal themselves. The snow melts and everything is there to be discovered, but only if we are able to open our minds to reality and the freedom to see things as they really are, as they could be if we can only confront our inner selves.Katri learns to play, to love, to hug, to feel and therefore becomes less different, less alone. She doesn't nee d the dog to protect her anymore but is able to connect with real people on a level previously denied to her. Yes, she has always loved Mats instinctively as a natural mother on an animal level of protecting, caring and nurturing but she has never really talked to him. Giving him the boat is a symbol of her true love; the boat will allow him to escape and sail away, to discover his true self as all our children should be allowed eventually to do. Anna, on the otherhand, has always lived isolated and alone, apparently happy in her cocooned, idealistic and ridiculously unreal little world at the rabbit house. She has squirrelled herself away. Unable to even look at real meat (let alone eat it), she has been perhaps even more isolated and alone than Katri. Oh yes, people like her, because she has learned how to play her part well and with apparent success. Unlike Katri, material wealth has come easily to her and with a great deal of inherited luck. But how many of us can afford the luxury of such luck? She doesn't like real children. She has never had a real animal. She has always deceived herself that her parents were kind. It is only when her relationship with Mats and Katri allows her to confront the truth of her petty life, is she able to strip away the layers of deception and see the truth. With her piles of possessions lying on the ice, waiting to sink into the deep, she can be cleansed, released and liberated to develop. Katri has made her confront her true nature, her true self. She isn't really sweet or nice or even clever. She has just found a way of surviving her lonely existence through her talent for painting. By entering the real world, I believe she becomes a deeper, more real and fully rounded human being, able to connect to her inner and spiritual self.Good Art should challenge us, should make us uncomfortable with ourselves so we can evolve, becoming better people in the process where we can truly connect with each other.Words, art, symbols are essential to allow us to free ourselves from reality and connect to something higher and more meaningful outside and within our true selves. Only by confronting our past, can we relea
JimmyChanga on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really wanted to like this book. Instead, I just admired it. It is an incredibly subtle, well told story that explores abstract ideas. The slow progression of the story and the characters is so well done as to be barely noticeable, like a plant that moves imperceptibly towards the sun over several weeks. The simplicity of her style, which in her other books created a deceptive openness, creates the opposite effect here by making everything veiled, hidden, mysterious and ominous. So little is known and so little revealed that the reader is constantly wondering if he is the one being deceived (as well he should).However, I could never really fall for the book. I really disliked the Katri character. I found her to be manipulative, and her over emphasis on facts and figures to be a bear. Also, the way that she tried to change Anna was so annoying. She was pushy and wouldn¿t leave her alone.Anna¿s character wasn¿t any better in terms of faults and flaws. She had the opposite flaws. She was overly naive. I¿m sure this would¿ve irked some people the way Katri irked me, but I found her pleasant at the beginning of the novel. I guess I really don¿t mind overly naive people. And in fact, I found it a pity that she slowly lost her charm as Katri¿s cynicism moved into her house.Although, about that last point, Katri would say that she lost her naivete a long time ago, and that now she was just lying to herself. Self deception. Perhaps. I don¿t know if I buy that.One thing about Katri, though, was that she was supposed to be honest, honest to the point of being unpleasant, frowning upon social niceties. And yet she lied. She lied about her intentions when carrying out her plan to move into Anna¿s house. Her whole plan was deceptive from the start. Does she really think her type of deception is better than Anna¿s self deception?And at the end of the novel, when Katri said she lied about the people who she claimed had cheated on Anna, was it because she really did lie about it? Or was it because her conscience felt bad because she had made Anna distrust everybody in town? Or was it because she realized that the truth (of the objective sort) wasn¿t the most important thing in the world.The changes in the characters as the novel went on were impressive in their believability and in the way they took effect in slow shifts. The characters are still who they were, but are somehow affected by the other ones. I feel like this is how people really are. They aren¿t entirely changed the way they are in some novels (with revelations! tada!) but are... contaminated. Their core being gets muddied up with what they realize they aren¿t, or can¿t be. They realize their shortcomings and they are sad and concede a little, but really they are still the same. Just less sure of themselves.This book made me think, and it is truly a stellar book. But I can¿t lie to myself and say I enjoyed reading it. It was a little too dark for me, and I needed a little more light. Not the book's fault, but mine.
kidzdoc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson, the Finnish author best known for her Moomin series of children's books, which won this year's Best Translated Book Award, was originally published in 1982, translated into English in the UK in 2009, and published by New York Review Books last year. The main character, Katri Kling, is a young woman who lives with her younger and mentally disabled teenage brother above a store in an isolated Scandinavian town. Katri is ostracized by the villagers, as she is abrupt and lacks social grace, but she is also respected by them, due to her math skills and brutal honesty. She sees no future for her or her brother, as she works as a shopkeeper's assistant for a man she despises, and seeks to improve the financial situation of her and her brother. At the other end of town lives Anna Aemelin, a widowed and wealthy children's book illustrator, who is respected but aloof. Katri insidiously integrates herself into Anna's life, and assumes responsibility over more of the elderly woman's business correspondence, increasing Anna's income while she reserves some of this money for her and her brother, to the progressive dismay of Anna and the villagers. This was a superb psychological novel, and Jansson does a fabulous job in portraying the isolation of this icy climate and its equally icy residents.
magentaflake on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Loved this book. It goes along at a great pace. How one woman deceived another.
saratoga99 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A little gem of Scandinavian literature, though succinct speaks volumes. An intriguing psychological perspective about Katri, an obscure woman talented in "the maths" and respected for her intuitive abilities who rejects monetary compensation to counsel villagers in financial and personal matters, and with her mentally encumbered brother Mats and her unnamed curious beast of a dog remain illusive outsiders in their small isolated village. Katri carefully constructs a stealthy plan to manipulate Anna, an ostensibly frivolous, though wealthy and talented illustrator of children's books in an attempt to secure financial and physical refuge for her brother and herself.Tove Jansson's literary brilliance lies in her deft facility to utilize not only the harsh winter settings to embellish each character's personality and dialogue, but also as vivid pivotal contrasts in the dramatic transformations in Anna, Katri, Mats and the dog.
kvanuska on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love stories of hermits and outcasts. I think it dates back to my first exposure to Heidi and her hermit grandfather. From the minute Heidi appeared on his doorstep, I knew his hermit days were over, but I never tire of his journey. This weakness of mine made me particularly vulnerable to the charms of The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson. The Summer Book had well-prepared me for Jansson's lovely-in-their-oddness characters. Yet Katri's journey in The True Deceiver, still surprised me by the degree to which she was left broken by her decision to abandon her independence to help her brother Mats build the boat of his dreams. The brittle dance between Katri and her co-conspirator Anna (a children's book author and illustrator ) seems to have all the steps carefully choreographed, but just when you think Katri is doing all the leading in this Tango, Anna takes over the lead and turns the story in unusual ways. Additionally, having read as many Russian novels I have, I thought I was used to snowy tales, but The True Deceiver's remote wintry Swedish setting made me yearn for the snow in the same way I did when I read Smilla's Sense of Snow many years ago. Jansson is gifted at making both characters and setting crackle with life's hardness and fleeting moments of warmth. Don't less this book pass you by!
janeajones on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Once upon a time in northern snowy Swedish climes there was a woman who every morning before dawn took a walk with her wolf-like dog, that had no name. Katri Kling has a head for numbers and a driving ambition: to move with her brother Mats into the mansion of Anna Aemelin, a children's illustrator. Once ensconced in a position as housekeeper/companion to the aging artist, she is determined to pay for the building of a boat that Mats has designed.Jansson's novel is an exquisite gem exploring the mysteries and vagaries of human relationships. At the beginning of the novel each of the three major characters seem to encased in a bubble of their individual personalities. Katri needs to control all the variables of her world; Mats is lost in the romance of sea-faring ventures; and Anna, a keen observer and intimate detailer of the world of the forest floor, is driven by her youthful fans to include flowery bunnies in her otherwise otherwise naturalistic woodscapes. Subtly each character each character evolves and influences the perceptions and actions of the others as the long Scandinavian winter begins to give way to spring. Jansson does not tie the novel up with a neat conclusion -- the ending is unsettling, but the reader leaves the book with a heightened awareness of how interconnected we all are. I'm sure I shall revisit this book often , and I've already ordered the other books by Jansson that are affordably available in English. THE TRUE DECEIVER by Tove Jansson, a Finnish novelist who wrote in Swedish, was originally published in 1982. The ARC of the NYRB 's English translation by Thomas Teal does not contain the introduction by Ali Smith that will be included with published version.
wordtron on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rec'd early reviewer ARC of this, just after reading Jansson's THE SUMMER BOOK (thank you, LibaryThing & NYRB). As in THE SUMMER BOOK, the writing here is as unadorned and crystal clear as the environment in which the story is set--in this case a cold, lonely winter in a small Swedish village. The "action" revolves around a young woman, Katri, who ingratiates herself into the solitary life of an older woman, Anna, a children's book illustrator, who lives in the largest house in the village. Through the course of year, I think, the two profoundly affect each other's understanding of themselves, unintentionally, helplessly. This was a very fast, absorbing read that really got under my skin. It's mythic, mysterious, tense, beautiful, unsettling, startling, deep. NYRB is doing english-speaking readers a great favor by bringing out Jansson's non-Moomin books.
Marensr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am a fan of the Finnish author Tove Jansson, who is best known for your children's series about Moomintrolls, so I was delighted to get early reviewer copy of her book The True Deceiver, in an English translation from the New York Review of Books. Jansson as truly been neglected by American audiences. Her works are a masterpiece of subtlety and delicate but brutally honest character analysis. The True Deceiver is her story of Katri Kling, an outsider in her small village and protector to her developmentally disabled brother. Her actions and those of the reclusive children's book illustrator Anna Aemelin form the crux of the novel. In spite of very little action the book is evocative of the frozen Scandinavian winters in which the interplay of individuals may be the entire drama of a season for a whole village. Jansson's understanding of human behavior, the miscommunication between them and how people can casually harm each other are stunning and she evokes them with elegance and subtlety. The tensions between the two women about a dog, a boy and a boat are palpable. She asks the reader to examine what behavior is honest and what is kind and how an unthinking act of kindness can harm. I find it fascinating that these themes run through both her works for children and those for adults. It is perhaps what makes her books for children so effective. True Deceiver is not quite the masterpiece another of her novels for adults, The Summer Book, but it is a fascinating and haunting read.She truly merits a wider audience and I am so glad New York Review of Books is publishing her works.
Cariola on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Katri Kling is an outsider in the small Swedish town of Västerby. While everyone agrees that the yellow-eyed young woman with the huge nameless dog is capable and conscientious, her cold, direct manner is offputting. But Katri has a plan for herself and, even moreso, for her younger brother Mats. Through small acts of apparent kindness--delivering the mail, dropping off groceries--she weasels her way into the life of Anna Aemelin, a wealthy spinster who paints illustrations for children's books, until it seems that she is indispensible. In no time at all, the novel has shifted into an understated thriller as Anna not only becomes dependent upon Katri but begins to lose the things, connections and beliefs that comprise her own identity. But Jansson saves some surprises for the final chapters.I loved the author's clear, clean style that so well matches the icy winter landscape and that not only sets the tone but complements Katri's personality. Yet the novel has its lyrical moments as well; in that, it reminded me of Linda Olsson's Astrid and Veronica. (Perhaps this is typical of Scandinavian writers; perhaps it is the effect of those long dark winters and the late spring sun.) Jansson also plays with fairy tale, myth, and folklore. For example, in an early moment, Anna suddenly recognizes Katri's rare smile as an illustration from one of her childhood books: the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood.This powerful little book was just what I needed to get away from the stress of the end-of-semester crunch. It grabbed me from the beginning, and I wolfed it down quickly. I will be looking for more of Jansson's adult work.