An In-between Reader: Situatedness and Belonging in Tove Jansson’s Helsinki

Evgenia Amey


Finnish-Swedish artist and writer Tove Jansson (1914–2001), widely known as the author of the Moomin books, was born in Helsinki and resided there for the greater part of her life. The city features as a setting for her adult-oriented fiction – notably, semi-autobiographical fix-up novels Sculptor’s Daughter (1968/2015) and Fair Play (1989/2011). This article adopts a situated approach to literary geography, examining the researcher’s own position as a Helsinki resident and a ‘situated’ reader. Using autoethnography as a method, I analyze how the city and Jansson’s life narrative are co-produced by the writer, her texts, texts about her (such as biographies and press articles) and myself as reader. When looking at the notions of spatial and social situatedness and belonging, both the writer’s and my own ‘in-betweenness’ emerge as a connecting motif in my reading and in the process of experiencing the place through the texts. While reflecting on my engagement with texts and, simultaneously, on my spatial and social experience, I consider the possible implications of different readerships developing their own understanding of and modes of engagement with Jansson’s works and places associated with her. Although her most famous creations, the Moomins, are often viewed as part of the heteronormative family-centered ideological framework, reading Jansson’s novels, diaries and correspondence, as well as recent biographies and press articles, provides a different picture, allowing her works and the spaces she inhabited to be interpreted in a new light.


autoethnography; belonging; literary geography; situated reading; spatial event; Tove Jansson

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