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Tainaron: Mail from Another City

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  954 ratings  ·  122 reviews
Consists of a series of letters sent beyond the sea from a city of insects. Nominated for the prestigious Finlandia prize, this is a book of changes that speaks of metamorphoses that test all of nature from a flea to a star, from stone and grass to a human.
Hardcover, 128 pages
Published July 11th 2006 by Prime Books (first published 1985)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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Alexander Popov
Aug 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
(Originally published on my blog:

What a marvelous book Lena Krohn’s tiny Tainaron is! I admit that I chose it for my train read precisely because of its size. It’s merely 130 pages long, many of them filled with illustrations and the blank spaces that follow the end of chapters, in this case letters. Tainaron consists of thirty letters sent by a woman to her unnamed once-lover, over the huge mass of Oceanus, from the eponymous insect-inhabited city where
Viv JM
Tainaron is an imaginary city populated by insects, and this novella takes the form of a series of letters written by an unknown (human) visitor to the city. We do not know who the recipient is, but we do know that the writer never receives a reply. The letters do not tell a story so much as give snippets of life in the city and details of how the different insects go about their lives. It sounds odd, and it is odd, but it is also quite beautiful. There are some wonderful details about the insec ...more
Dec 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
The book consists of vignettists in the form of letters from a woman living in a land of insects to her companion back home. The writing is bountiful and beautiful, and it is quite easy to see the author is a poet.

I can not bring myself to call this work a novel. it is akin to going to the movies and watching the previews for an extended period of time. Although the themes and concepts are brilliant and well written we are just given a taste and peek at what exists in this strange and bizarre an
Hannah Greendale
Tainaron is a collection of letters sent from a city comprised entirely of insects. The lush descriptions of the city and its inhabitants are as intoxicating to the reader as scented petals and the promise of sweet nectar are to a honey bee. Though the premise is intriguing, there's no discernible plot, and the reader is never formally introduced to whoever -- or whatever -- is writing the letters, nor is the recipient of the letters ever identified.

"I heard thuds as nutlets fell from their open
Mar 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant work of pure imagination. This is a brief novel composed of a series of letters written from a city populated by insects. Its writer and reader are never identified, nor is the exact nature of their relationship established other than they were close.

There's a gentle melancholy throughout the book that only hints at unrevealed emotions. Death, loneliness, longing, joy, wisdom, duty, love - all are presented by our narrator with no predetermined conclusions and with no crude metaphors
Jan 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I read this short novel as part of The Weird Compendium. Both imaginative and fascinating, this is the kind of work that can only be categorized as weird fiction. I loved the method of telling the story through a series of letters. It allowed the string of events to jump between many smaller adventures and explorations naturally. Each letter felt like a snapshot of the city of Tainaron, and each held something to discover.
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love Leena Krohn's writing. It's rich and filled with wonderful details, but there is a ton of room for the reader to take what they will (or need) from it. I'm sure there are many ways to interpret Tainaron. I took the whole thing as a metaphor for loss. When you lose a lover, either by being dumped or by the other person dying, you spend a long season in a faraway city populated by insects wondering what your lost love is doing/feeling. There's some profound truth in that. ...more
Aug 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
I picked up Tainaron as part of a "weird fiction" ebook sale, not having heard of it before. By Finnish author Leena Krohn, it is written as a series of letters from an unnamed person staying in the city of Tainaron. Tainaron is a city populated by insects, and it is implied that the writer is human. The letters are to a lover or friend back in the writer's home city, and a lot is left unexplained. It's a fascinating novel, and hard to understand exactly what is going on, as a lot of things are ...more
Rachel (Kalanadi)
Aug 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: translated, fantasy
I don't think I understood this well after just one read, but it was like reading poetry and I liked it! ...more
Karen Heuler
Dec 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A slow, gentle, thoughtful, mesmerizing book. A voyager to the strange land of Tainaron grapples with, and tries to understand, Tainaron's inhabitants, who are insects, and how their lives illuminate or disturb her own life. Tainaron is like a human city and thoroughly unlike one and she struggles to find connection there as well as with a lover who does not answer her letters. The chapters are very short and dreamy, but this is a book to read slowly and thoughtfully. To rush through Tainaron wo ...more
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019
This is a bite-sized collection of stories (written as letters) about a human tourist's experiences in a city inhabited by giant bugs.

Although people tend to recommend this book to those who want a Hollow Knight-like experience beware that these are really slice-of-life stories that mostly use the insects (and their city) as a template for change.

What I liked:
*Since the stories are told through letters, most of them end in extremely pleasing places. I can't recall a single story that overstayed
Travis Riddle
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Definitely one of the most unique books I've read, and I enjoyed it a lot.

There's not much of a narrative; it's a collection of letters sent from someone to their ex-lover in a city far away, describing their new life in the bug-inhabited city of Tainaron. It's very slice-of-life/observational/philosophical.

This approach made for a really strange, melancholy, and ultimately calming reading experience. My favorite parts of the book were when the writer talked about the various types of inhabitan
Becca Younk
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
I ended up liking this much more that I thought I would when I started it. It's in letter format, someone writing to a former lover from Tainaron, a city unlike any other. It's full of insects. I love anthropomorphizing, well, pretty much everything. There's no real overarching plot or story here, just lovely descriptions of the narrator meeting her neighbors and other residents, describing the scenery and how the city works. My favorite section is probably when the narrator is invited to a dinn ...more
I wonder if it's the translation - it's one of those cases where I feel as if I am reading one. Something is not quiet right about the language), but really, not only. Perhaps what I am missing is the big implication, the political, the world-changing or the world-accusing. The book full of little ideas but they don't come together to form a whole. (It's also not about it not having a plot - I once had a long and loud argument in favor of books without plot. But they have to have a point.) ...more
Regina Rex
Aug 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
My favorite of Krohn's. The book is about the oddities of human living as if we were living in a city of insects, Tainaron. Very enjoyable universe and filled with wonder about insects and life's absurdity. ...more
Skylar Phelps
Apr 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Intriguing epistolary premise but altogether it came off as aimless and languid.

2.5 Stars
Oct 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Don't be fooled by the 3-star rating - I actually loved this short book! I just use my ratings for a different purpose - I see them as rewards. And the things I typically reward are structure, consistency and character development/depth. And that book has none of those. Yet it's still pretty great!

You can read many different opinions on what this book is about. Everyone has their own interpretation, some even believe that it's better to not have an interpretation. And many people see this as a n
Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Finnish epistolary fantasy, written from the view of a tourist getting existential and lyrical in a city teeming with people/insects, that is, insects as people, people as insects, e.g. her guide is an over-sized, impeccable Longhorn beetle. Some great moments in her exploration, like her conversation with the City Surveyor, an insect measuring the whole metropolis--street widths, building heights-- using his own body as the measuring unit, so he has to climb up cathedrals, flipping on end to ...more
May 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
This short novel is presented as 30 letters home to an unnamed lover that does not respond from the narrator, a tourist visiting the city of Tainaron. Tainaron is a very unusual city, being populated by somewhat anthropomorphised insects. It is unclear whether the insects are human-sized, or whether the narrator has somehow been shrunk to insect size.

As might be expected in a novel about insects, the central theme of the letters is metamorphosis. How much can an individual change and still remai
Molly Ison
Aug 24, 2015 rated it liked it
This felt like an incomplete work. Rather, it showed a cross-section of a woman's life in a new city where the other residents have qualities of insects, and her observations and adventures of city life were often strange and intriguing, but the glimpses of her own life as self-unaware xenophobe seemed underdeveloped and lacking context. Although there may be a certain amount of realism in that, she never develops beyond insensitive tourist and as a result, her guide never develops beyond inscru ...more
Amy (Other Amy)
Thirty letters sent to an old lover by a rather foolish woman who has come to live in a city of insects for reasons she has forgotten. As with most epistolary works, it takes a while to build. Several letters in the middle to end begin to suggest larger themes. However, full enlightenment never really seems to dawn on the protagonist (although there are hints here and there that she is either changing or losing her mind), so the end, which is undoubtedly the right one, seems unsupported by what ...more
David Macpherson
Jul 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I don't think I was a good enough, or close enough reader to catch everything this book was doing. It was beautiful, and frustrating, because it was working with metaphor so well. It is 30 letters written from a person living in the distant city of Tainaron, which is made up of insects. The narrator discovers odd and familiar parts of a city of insects. It is about death, and change and a lot of things about life. Its kind of amazing. ...more
Edward Rathke
Mar 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: sf
My second Krohn novel, and I feel almost exactly the same as I do about Datura, which I read last week.

Interesting world, interesting ideas, solid prose, a very pleasant read, but just not really my kind of thing.

I'd recommend it but only give yourself maybe ten pages. If you don't like it by then, you likely never will.

So it's not that I dislike it, just that it's not my thing. It's pretty solid, in its way.
Jul 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
(Read in her Collected Fictions) Tainaron reads like a botanical or entemological version of Calvino's Invisible Cities, or perhaps like if Dali wrote flash fictions with insectoids. The narrative thread is very loose here, like a book of poetry, but the characterization comes through and overall is an impressive feat of language, imagination, and feeling. ...more
Kae Cheatham
Dec 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spec-fiction
[Borrowed from my PL]

A connected series of letters written by a woman who has moved to a city of insects. Odd concept. Beautiful language as the essence of change is described in many forms.

I liked it, but I'm not sure why.
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
I flatter myself to think I have a lot of good ideas for weird/fantasy stories, but on paper 90% of what I have is just a big list of different insect ecology ideas grafted onto genre fiction tropes. I expected The Weird to include some precursors to my ideas, but I figured that had peaked with Wollheim’s Mimic. Nope. Tainaron is a far more direct version of what I had in my head than I ever expected to find out there already. It’s a series of 30 vignettes, basically that list of ideas featuring ...more
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This unusual short novel is made up of a collection of letters written by an unnamed person to an unnamed former lover left behind in an unnamed former home. Our letter-writer (I can't remember if it was spelled out that she was a woman or if I projected that on to her) is now living in the city of Tainaron, a fantastical place inhabited by various large insects -- I pictured them in my mind as slightly anthropomorphized and mostly human-sized.

There is no real plot, no story that unfolds over th
Sharon Bidwell
Jun 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
First, the copy I have is of a small hardback book that’s a delight to hold with an eye-catching slip cover, and drawings dotted throughout; a fast read at only 124 pages. The story from this Finnish prize-winning author is a fantasy told in a series of letters written by a foreign visitor and sent from an insect city. There’s no plot. We never know the recipient of these letters and only get to know the writer obliquely. I’ve heard the character writing the letters is female, but I never picked ...more
Jennifer (bunnyreads)
This was rec’d to me by a fellow r/fantasy redditor for the New Weird Bingo Square. I’m not a huge fan of New Weird so I have been putting this read off for most of the year.

I have to admit that this was a beautiful read and a great recommendation. The story is made up of written letters to an unknown lover, detailing her life and observations while abroad in the Insect City of Tainaron.

There is no overreaching plot and it’s not long at all. I found the whole thing quite lovely. This presentat
May 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Tainaron: Mail from Another City by Leena Krohn is a novella originally published in Finnish. It takes the form of letters from an unnamed human narrator living in the off-world city of Tainaron to back home.

They describe quite vividly what it's like living in a strange city occupied by insectoid-like beings; the way they deal with death, daily life, and the changing nature of the city itself, whilst pining for home.

This was an unusual book - there was no background as to why the visitor was the
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