LEENA KROHN'S TAINARON--Brilliant Work: Buy Immediately
I recently read Leena Krohn's Tainaron, a brilliant short novel in the form of a series of letters home from an anonymous narrator visiting a city populated by intelligent, human-sized insects. It's Kafkaesque territory, although Krohn's vision is somehow more emotional and evocative than most of Kafka. The understated quality of the letters, coupled with the ingenious evocation of insect life and the symbolic, resonant nature of the images in the novel makes for a mind-altering experience. I've re-read Tainaron four times now, and have taken something different from it each time. I just flat-out love this novel.
Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say about it in a starred review:
Handsomely embellished with Finnish State Prize winner Inari Krohn's provocative etchings and xylographies, this brief, lyrical epistolary meditation on life, love and death, nominated for the prestigious Finlandia Prize, is the first of modern fabulist Krohn's works published in the U.S. The "woman" whose 30 letters make up the novel has recently come on a white ship to Tainaron, an insect-city within a volcanic cone, but she's forgotten why. The "lover" she addresses over the sea never replies, and she eventually abandons hope of answers, instead ranging the city with arthropodic "friend" Longhorn, who provides unsettling insights into the cycle of birth, change and absorption into new life. As summer fades to autumn and implacable winter nears, the narrator falls half in love with sleep and its easeful twin, death. The spiral-nautilus emblem of Tainaron's flag reminds its letter-writing guest, smitten by the realization of mortality, of the sweet anguish in the unavoidable alliance between birth and death, a recollection of "the dead [and] the gods." The author suggests no line divides language and music; her elegiac linguistic melodies enthrall the mind's ear, evoking as well bittersweet intimations of immortality more lovely, dangerous and disturbing than any realistic voice might utter.
You can order it from Amazon and pay what I would consider a fair price for the book, which otherwise retails for a somewhat ridiculous $29.95 direct from the publisher (it isn't more than 150 pages, if that).
I'm going to seek out the rest of Krohn's work in English and do my bit to see that more of it makes it into English. This is an important author who should be more widely known in the United States.