As a follow‐up to the Common Knowledge symposium “Apology for Quietism” (15:1 to 16:3), this guest column asks what it means to say nothing. Strictly speaking, to “say nothing” is a contradiction in terms (unless, of course, one says “Nothing,” which is another thing entirely and generally not nothing). This essay explores what it means to say nothing in Tove Jansson's novella Fair Play (first published in Finland Swedish as Rent spel, 1989), an episodic account of the intertwined lives of two elderly artists. Through its careful staging of saying nothing, the text calls attention to the many vital functions that silence serves: exposing tacit expectations, opening up creative and psychological space, enabling otherwise impossible relations. Bringing forth the diversity, complexity, and mystery behind hesitation and reticence, Jansson's novella emerges here as a quiet celebration of conversational practices associated with weakness, redefining the genre of the “love story” along the way.

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