«  asylum piece »

A Stranger on Earth by Jeremy Reed

newspaperArticle, 07/07/2006

On the cover is an old snap of Anna Kavan tinted to make her look like somebody she never could have been. Before colour photography, it was a profession: tinting photographs, flattering the sitter. If it was the novelist herself who agreed to this enhanced Anna, then the picture is probably a witness to another of her attempts to be just like everybody else, and that is painful.

Sleep Asylum

audioRecording, 1986

Before powerhouse vocalist Thalia Zedek added her verve to New York's no wave band Live Skull or fronted her own blues-tinged Come during the 1990s, she was fulfilling, in part, the legacy Patti Smith left behind when she dropped from sight to raise her family at the end of the 1970s. Fronting the little-known and even less-remembered Boston band Uzi during the first half of the 1980s, Zedek spit her voice across a dark, underground rock that barely tempered the ferocity of her delivery. The group's only album, Sleep Asylum, was racked in 1986 and displayed their skill at creating a wall of sound that didn't depend on screamed vocals to front the din. It was a godsend for the Massachusetts no wavers, who'd only previously been able to sample the band via the college circuit. A delicious blend of gritty guitar, tape loops, and heavy drumbeats, the music was another slice of the pie served à la Sonic Youth and to a lesser extent, Big Black. Packed with sophisticated melody that barely traps the menace, Sleep Asylum builds across the opening "Criminal Child" to the sweet fragility of "Gabrielle" before launching into the balls-out crash-bang nervous breakdown of "Ha-Ha-Ha," which remains one of the band's finest. Nearly, but not quite outdoing that triumph, though, is the hypnotic "Collections," which roils around guitar and drums and some otherworldly chant before Zedek's vocals weigh in to pose the question, "Would you let me inside your house/Would you like to push me inside out?/Someone should dare." With that delicious intent and her bludgeoned come-on cutting through the music, one can only wonder if anyone would have. Probably not. This album, an early Homestead release, remains devilishly hard to find, but is well worth the price. Sleep Asylum is one of the American underground's long-forgotten secrets, a bit of archeology that, in its own way, helped set the scene for the drone of music's future.

Kafka's sister

magazineArticle, 31/07/2010

Fuelled by heroin and self-exploration, Anna Kavan's underground Kafka-esque novels penetrated the human psyche in a manner that distrubed even JG Ballard.

Anna Kavan : brilliant like ice

blogPost, 29/09/2011

Her descriptions burned so brightly when I first began reading the work of Anna Kavan that I felt a kinship with her almost at once. I have sometimes wandered past her last home in Peel Street, London, in pilgrimage. The novels and memoirs stand on my shelves: I came across Ice first, then Asylum Piece and My Madness, then Let me Alone, Julia and the Bazooka with its 1960s hip bohemianism, and Sleep Has His House.

Agamben, Anna Kavan (irreparable)

blogPost, 25/09/2010

How can nature exist ? To this Anna Kavan wandering across europe really allows for a single response because you’ll remain “a stranger still” as you approach the “bright green field” having left the asylum after suffering a “scarcity of love”. The car driving across the ice, the heavy gun in his pocket. The girls, the drugs, the small bare rooms in which you can hear the birds singing in the trees. All this is marked by the fact of its being irreparable, its this which is written into Kavan’s world, her writing which engraves into things.

Anna Kavan, Asylum piece, 1940

blogPost, 16/09/2009

A l’origine, la photo d’une femme au visage serein, souriant… Derrière laquelle se cache un monde asilaire, une femme glaciaire, lointaine, un écrivain hors du commun.

bernur: Kliniken och andra berättelser, Anna Kavan

blogPost, 01/02/2015

Tack vare de mindre svenska förlagen har det blivit möjligt att täppa till några bildningsluckor, så som med Sphinxs förnämliga serie surrealister, och nu Förlaget Glas, som ger ut en bok av Anna Kavan: Kliniken och andra berättelser, i översättning av Helena Eriksson och Helena Fagertun. Kavans författarskap har gått mig helt förbi, och jag har helt missat att romanen Is översattes till svenska 1977.

A Writer's Ruminations


quote Asylum

I Am Lazarus: Stories by Anna Kavan

blogPost, 07/01/2015

Unlike Julia and the Bazooka, this collection of Kavan’s short fiction was originally published during her lifetime, and the significance of this distinction is clear. This book is more balanced, with most if not all of the stories written during a period of Kavan’s life in wartime London following her return from living abroad. While there are a few that stray beyond the more obvious parallels to Kavan’s experience, such as the gothic tale ‘The Brother’ and the horror snapshot ‘The Gannets’, most stories here reflect that distinct time in her life.

Heroin, madness and men: a hell of a life

newspaperArticle, September 3, 2001

Self-loathing, abuse and drug addiction plagued novelist Anna Kavan but also inspired her best work, says Virginia Ironside. It's time her genius was recognised.

Anna Kavan

blogPost, 07/10/2010

« J’avais un ami, un amant. Ou l’ai-je rêvé ? Tant de rêves m’assaillent désormais que je peux à peine distinguer le vrai du faux : des rêves comme de la lumière emprisonnée dans de brillantes cavernes minérales, des rêves lourds, brûlants, des rêves de l’air glaciaire, des rêves comme des machines dans la tête. Je suis allongée entre le mur nu et le remède amer qui forme un dépôt dans le verre nain, et je m’efforce de me souvenir de mon rêve. Je me vois en train de marcher la main dans la main avec quelqu’un d’autre, un être humain dont le cœur et l’esprit ont poussé dans mon cœur et mon esprit. Nous nous promenions ensemble sur beaucoup de routes dans la clarté du soleil (…). Il y avait entre nous une compréhension sans réserve et une paix indestructible. Moi qui avais été solitaire et inaccomplie, j’étais alors exaucée. Nos pensées couraient ensemble comme des lévriers, avec la même rapidité. A l’égal d’une musique, nos pensées étaient la perfection même. »

Outside the asylum of her mind

newspaperArticle, 25/06/2006

Since we often hear complaints about the puerile state of current publishing, it is as well to remind oneself that exceptional work has often had a hard time of it in Britain. Henry James struggled to sell his greatest novels. James Joyce was published in Paris. Ronald Firbank paid for his own publication. D H Lawrence was reviled. But because literature is about extending reality, not repeating it, there is some law of creativity which guarantees that the exceptional is what survives. So perhaps it is no wonder that the esoteric and beautiful writing of Anna Kavan refuses to go away - but it has been a near thing.

Asylum Piece - Anna Kavan

blogPost, 18/04/2011

Anna Kavan – a character’s name from one of her earlier works, adopted by the author who went on to produce some astonishing work that is all too sadly neglected these days, despite the unflagging championship by her publisher. This was the first of her ‘new’ work, a series of interlinked vignettes that explore her recent experiences of breakdown and confinement in an asylum.

Attentive Writers’: Healthcare, Authorship, and Authority. Conference Review by Jac Saorsa - Centre for Medical Humanities

webpage, 30/08/2013

After a brief and to the point conference opening address the first parallel panels began and I listened as Geraldine Perriam spoke about Gender, Medical Authority and Location in Fiction by Women. Her talk focused primarily on two texts, Asylum Piece by Anna Kavan, and The Pumpkin Eaters by Penelope Mortimer, wherein a woman with mental health problems, despite in each case being the central character in the narrative, was caught up in a ‘network of practices’ where her choices were made for her by doctors and male relatives.

An Unpleasant Reminder by Anna Kavan

blogPost, 15/04/2014

An Unpleasant Reminder is a short story written in the first person narrative which explores the workings of a disturbed mind. The story begins with complaints about the weather and moves on to the precise details of the day. The narrator does not give away that she is a woman till one reaches the middle of the story and she likens herself to another woman.

these are a few of my favourite…

blogPost, 12/03/2008

Books are our best friends. And they hardly ever let us down. I find second hand books especially fascinating, they have a life of their own…and you can find the weirdest things forgotten between the pages, such as old creepy letters, black & white pictures, postcards from 20, 30, 40 years ago…


blogPost, 28/09/2011

I love the North London Line, and this was a perfect North London afternoon. There is something magical and breathless about the city in the embrace of an Indian summer, and yesterday I had the joy of experiencing it again when Chris and I went up to town for the launch of the Solaris anthology House of Fear. We spent the afternoon in Kensington, having lunch near Holland Park and then making our way across to Hillsleigh Road and nearby Peel Street, both once home to the writer Anna Kavan.

Rhys Davies and Anna Kavan

blogPost, 16/01/2008

The relationship between Welsh novelist Rhys Davies and cult author Anna Kavan is a fascinating one. I guess what drew them together must have been their outsider status - Davies the closeted homosexual and Kavan the secret heroin addict.

Anna Kavan (1901-1968)

blogPost, 04/09/2007

Anna Kavan was born "Helen Woods" in Cannes, France on April 10, 1901 to wealthy expatriot British parents. Anna spent her childhood in several European countries, California and England. She completed her education in England. She married (Donald Ferguson) and for a time lived in Burma.

Anna Kavan


It has been said that Anna Kavan wrote in a mirror. The body of work left by the now obscure British modernist represented a constant inquiry into her own identity, and the invention of a personal mythology—or demonology, as it would become later in her career.

Neige - Anna KAVAN

book, 16/3/2009

Un personnage dont on ne sait pas le nom cherche, dans un, puis un autre pays, jamais précisés, une fille qui le hante et dont une seule particularité est mise en relief : Sa chevelure (...), d'un blanc argenté, celle d'un albinos, étincelante comme le clair de lune... Parfois un troisième personnage se dresse entre le quêteur et l'objet de la quête ; on n'en connaît que la fonction : Gouverneur.

Guilty by Anna Kavan

webpage, 20/04/2007

Rhys Davies, one of Anna Kavan’s few close friends, wrote an introduction for Julia and the Bazooka (1970), a posthumous collection of her stories linked by their common allusion to her heroin habit.

Julia and the Bazooka

blogPost, 17/09/2009

Anna Kavan is the author of Ice, a surreal sci-fi masterpiece about a woman and two barely distinguishable sadistic men, one who has enslaved her, and one who wishes to. The world is slowly turning to ice. She has the incredibly smooth and detached voice of mid-century English fiction, flawlessly written and absolutely clear, like Somerset Maugham or Graham Greene. The subject is always herself. This is what links her early realist work to her later surreal stuff. Anna Kavan (it is a nom de plume, taken from the protagonist of an early novel) was a lifelong heroin addict. She was suicidal. She called her syringe her bazooka. Hence the title of her last collection of short stories, Julia and the Bazooka.

Anna Kavan - De Quincey's heir, Kafka's sister

blogPost, 07/12/2009

Anna Kavan (April 10, 1901—1968; born Helen Emily Woods) was a British novelist, short story writer and painter.

What we're reading now

blogPost, 20//02/2014

Larry recently discovered Anna Kavan's Asylum Pieces and really enjoyed it. Ice was her final book.

The Mysterious Anna Kavan

blogPost, 08/01/2006

’ve been reading Anna Kavan’s Asylum Piece. It’s a stunning collection, each story stranger and more intense than the last.

AK (bis) / Obsessionnel.

blogPost, 04/07/2012

Les six pages signées Anna Kavan sortent de nulle part. Aucune trace dans les recueils traduits ou les rares articles consacrés à l'écrivaine anglaise, à peine connue de quelques lecteurs français, les moindres n'étant pas Viviane Forrester, Claire Malroux ou Christine Jordis, talentueuses passeuses.

Anna Kavan : Asylum Piece (1940)

blogPost, 06/07/2012

Anna Kavan (1901–68) was born Helen Woods, although she initially wrote as Helen Ferguson, her married name. Following the failure of her second marriage and one of many nervous breakdowns she changed her name to Anna Kavan, the main character of her novel Let Me Alone (1930). Asylum Piece is a collection of short stories which her publisher Peter Owen describes as 'mostly interlinked and largely autobiographical'. The cover shows Karl Theodor Bluth, the doctor who prescribed Kavan's heroin and co-wrote The Horse's Tail (1949) with her.