In the book “Campo di pietra” (Stone field) by Tove Jansson, a retired journalist is tormented by the search (even in his memory) for clear and precise words to give order to a whole life

If it were not for the references to the typewriter and the public telephone it would seem written in these 'social times' which have brought written communication back to the center of the political and social debate but also of everyone's daily life, highlighting the dangerous tendency of words to alterwhich often generates discussions born from misunderstanding, or from misbehaving.

And instead Campo di pietra (Field of stone) was written by the famous Finnish writer Tove Jansson in 1984 , and was recently published in Italy by Iperborea. Short novel or long story - not one word too many, not one less - is a jewel book that condenses an entire life into a limited number of pages.

Precise words vs corrupt words

The life at the center of the novel is that of Jonas, a newly retired journalist gruff and lonely, ironic and sharp, sometimes cynical and a little depressed, who joins his two daughters, who have always been neglected , in the wildest nature, among woods, sea, fields of stones, in fact, of the Åland islands to be able to work on the biography of a hated media magnate, whom he considered a corruptor of words, ready to use them to create scandals and easy patheticism, as opposed to him who for all his life has taken care of words - as for vocation - with precision and now (re) searches for them with obsession.

He has worked with words all his life, but now they escape him

From Jonas' nemesis, as a much-hated opponent, the successful tycoon simply called 'Y' will transform into a mirror in which to observe himself and confront his own failures and mistakes. Like when he reproached his wife and daughters for the precision, repetitions and phrases left unfinished.

Nightmares and tormented thoughts will leave room for clouded and confused family memories that will (re) take shape, color and taste thanks to the comparison with his daughter Maria, to find the words he is looking for so much, the clear and simple ones, adhering to reality. Yes but what reality? One in which to recognize yourself, and find a little of peace.

I have consumed too many words in this work, all my words are worn out and unnerved, they are tired, if you know what I mean, they cannot be used. You should wash them and start over”.

“(...) write millions of words and never be sure you have chosen the right ones. this is how we become silent, more and more silent (...)”.

“A conscious thought should consist of ' analyze and formulate in words, specify, distinguish and discard, give each expression its exact justification.

“(...) how terribly important, and how difficult it is to find the words you need to explain completely and correctly”.

I am locked up with these words that I can never give the clarity they deserve. And I have no one to talk to”.

Like a field of stones, untreated words become dry and sterile

In his dedication to his work that led him to neglect his family, Jonas has always sought clear words, adhering to the facts, unscratchable, like the stone of the mysterious field behind the house on the island. Yet, like the field, that obsession with words risks becoming arid and sterile.

It is no coincidence that Jonas tries to bury his failures, the biography of ' Y ' that ( non) wrote, right in the stone field, a magnetic place that has always attracted him, to forget but also to continue to search, the appropriate words and parts of himself .

I still have to dig thoroughly in its field di stone , unearth, keep rummaging, keep writing - even if there is probably nothing underneath, there is emptiness up to the primitive rock ”.

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A book anticipating the ' social times

The word has a central meaning in the novel. And in life, in 1984 and even more today. In the book, as on social media, words become worn out”: they are often used without thinking about their actual meaning and what they can (de) generate. Even violent discussions can arise from lack of clarity .

That bastard who grabbed every single bastard - excuse repeating - however, every single bastard addicted to the worst sensationalism and pathetism and put them all  work, you know, people who can't even express themselves, and he practically encouraged them to destroy the language!” says Jonas of the newspaper tycoon.


The images illustrating the article are works by Pio Tarantini exhibited in The time rediscovered, exhibition curated by Elena Carotti in program from 22 September to 30 October 2022 in the new Lab 1930 exhibition space in via Mantova 21 in Milan.

Six photographs from the Imago series, which summarize the artist's reflection on the concept of "dilated time" through the blur technique, are proposed together with two drawers in wood and plexiglass (opening photo, Cassettiera#Lettere).

As in the book Campo di pietra, in The time rediscovered the story around memory becomes pressing: the time of real history does not correspond with the time of the consciousness of self.