The True DeceiverBook | Tove Jansson By Damian Van Denburgh
Deception runs through Jansson’s cunning novel.
Deception in all its guises runs through Tove Jansson's quietly cunning novel The True Deceiver (originally published in 1982, and reissued in a new translation in 2009 by New York Review Books Classics). What appears on the surface to be a study in contrasts gradually reveals itself as a probing exploration of two emotionally complicated women. Katri Kling is an infamously honest and formidable presence in the close-quartered fishing village of Västerby, Finland. Anna Aemelin, an aging children's book illustrator and gullible local eccentric, lives alone in her inherited house, detached from the village and, in some ways, her own life. In her brusque, resolute fashion, Katri works her way into Anna's life by offering to protect her from merchants and business partners who have cheated her regularly for years. Beneath the veneer of Katri's scheme lies a motive that is fundamentally pure, but impossible to realize without her engaging in dubious behavior. In Jansson's mercurial moral context, the reader is unprepared for the role reversal Katri's plan puts into motion. In appealing, nimble prose laced with shrewd insights and observations, Jansson steadily builds the story into a wrenching confrontation of wills, while setting it against the hypocrisy and cowardice of the townspeople who look on indifferently--yet revel in gossiping about it all.