Now, Katri Kling, protagonist of Tove Janssons’s 1982 novel The True Deceiver, is a female written by a female I can relate to. She is as comfortless as the winter in the tiny Scandinavian village she inhabits. Katri is an outsider who refuses to fall in with the polite nothings and other social niceties that most people rely on to grease their quotidian interactions. She recognizes almost no social contract at all, except as far as the most basic notions of fairness and honesty.
That kind of honesty is much too much for most people, though they have to respect it at a certain level as well. At the beginning of the novel, Katri has a plan, and to carry it out she needs to insinuate herself into the life of Anna Aemelin, a respected children’s book illustrator. She asks the postman if she can take up her mail one day:
“Are you trying to help?”
“You know I’m not,” Katri said. “I’m doing it entirely for my own sake. Do you trust me or don’t you?”
Afterwards Liljeberg thought that she might anyway have said that, since she was going out that way with the dog in any case, it would be no trouble. But at least Katri Kling was honest—he had to admit that.
This refusal to varnish the truth, to make it seem more normal or more acceptable, is characteristic. She makes her brother read “literature” in addition to the adventure novels he has a passion for, because “[s]he worried that her brother would lose himself in a world where the bad parts of life were hidden away behind falsely foursquare adventures.” There is positively no hiding allowed—as Katri tells Anna, “You hide things, and then they start to smell.”
But hiding is what most people
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