“Absent Illustrations” in The Listener: Visual Narration Across Tove Jansson’s Authorship
Abstract: Tove Jansson is known the world over for her Moomin books – especially for her illustrations of their characters. Recently, her books for adults, to which Jansson dedicated her writing efforts almost exclusively after publication of the final Moomin novel in 1970, have also garnered international praise and attention. Although Jansson has clearly “left” Moominvalley in these later works, themes, imagery, and even characters from the late Moomin books carry over into her texts for adults. For Tove Holländer, this carryover begs the question of the “absent illustration” (“frånvarande illustrationen”) in Jansson’s first collection of short stories for adults, Lyssnerskan [The Listener], first published in 1971. The notion of the “absent illustration” raises compelling questions in relationship to Jansson’s authorship: On what basis can we argue that illustrations are absent from a text? How can or should we imagine these “absent” images? Using Gérard Genette’s concept of paratext, I argue that “absent illustrations” in The Listener illuminate the tension between word and image that characterizes Jansson’s body of work. Genette’s theory is useful for Jansson scholarship as it allows one to see the parts of Jansson’s production not just as thematically and aesthetically related, but as potentially constitutive of one another’s meaning and reception.
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