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anna kavan is now regarded as one of the most original writers of the twentieth century. an early novel, a charmed circle foreshadows her later development. it is the story of a family marooned in a country house near an ugly, expanding manufacturing town of the 1920's. the atmosphere of the house is heavy with repression, hostility and revolt, and is darkened by the sinister influence of the father, whose warped nature dominates the lives of his wife, daughters and son. the struggles of the young people to escape from this malign environment, their desperate search for self-expression and freedom, and their apparent successes point only to the inevitable triumph of temperament and upbringing, and leave them enclosed in a charmed circle of their limitations. with a masterly touch, kavan contrasts the english countryside with the brittle london life of the era. ( from the book jacket, british reprint published in 1994).

anna kavan – introduced by victoria walker, founder of the anna kavan society. print version & e-book.


anna kavan's books have established her reputation as one of the most talented and original contemporary writers - comparable in stature to virginia woolf, anais nin and djuna barnes. a man's search for an elusive girl takes place against a backdrop of nuclear war resulting in total destruction by walls of ice that overrun the world. imaginative descriptions of a terrifying dreamlike hunt combine with writing of distinction to form an unusual book. ( from the book jacket, first british edition published in 1967).

anna kavan's earlier short stories are already regarded by prominent critics as classics. her volumes of stories asylyum piece and i am lazarus established her in the front rank of english writers, and admirers of her work will not be disappointed with this new collection. the title story is allegorical writing at its best, and bears the stamp of the author's compulsive power. in contrast, the other stores, like happy name, the birds dancing and new and splendid, show her grasp of the conflict between dream and reality, and an acute awareness of human dignity constantly threatened by insensitive unkindness. ice storm and the end of something, in their delicate evocation of mood, stand as testament to miss kavan's wide range. ( from the book jacket, first british edition published in 1958). stories in this edition: a bright green field, annunciation, happy name, one of the hot spots, ice storm, mouse, shoes, the end of something, the birds dancing, christmas wishes, a visit fo the sleepmaster, lonely unholy short, all saints, ** new and splendid**.

anna kavan's reputation is escalating internationally, and translations of her books are appearing in many languages. this early novel is therefore of especial interest, as an account of personal stresses which she was later to use and develop in more subjective and experimental ways. indeed, it was the name of the central character of let me alone that the author chose when she changed her name as a writer (and her personal identity) from helen ferguson to anna kavan. anna's mother dies in childbirth and she is brought up by her father and a governess, in a remote pyrenean village. when she is thirteen, her father shoots himself. she is adopted by a rich, beautiful and ruthless aunt, who relegates her to a boarding school. there she first becomes attached to the headmistress, rachel, who takes a possessive interest in the unusual and attractive girl, and then to a fellow-pupil, sidney reeve. this girl prises anna away from rachel, but is finally supplanted in anna's affections by another girl, catherine. leaving school, anna is made to feel unwanted by her aunt, who forces her into a loveless marriage. she comes to detest her husband and his bourgeois family, but cannot break away and accompanies him to burma. there, in an exotic setting described with lawrentian intensity, the story reaches its climax. sharp characterization combines with fine descriptive writing, especially of the burmese countryside. in addition to is literary interest, the book evokes life in england and is colonies from the early years of the century through the period following the first world war. ( from the book jacket, british reprint published in 1974).

edited and with an introduction by rhys davies.


fro m th e boo k jacke t: a stranger still was first published in 1935 under anna kavan’s early married name of helen ferguson. an intriguing, well-plotted story, it was much acclaimed at the time, and its freshness and vigour remain undiminished. the wealthy lewison family occupy centre stage. william, a widower, presides forcefully over his empire of greater london stores, as well as over his sons, cedric and martin, and his impressionable daughter, gwenda. a fictional ‘ anna kavan’ appears as a young girl adrift from her husband and now in pursuit of romantic fulfillment. the story takes us from fashionable and bohemian london to paris, the south of france and italy. the autobiographical element is implicit for those familiar with the author’s enigmatic life. anna kavan captures the ambience of the thirties with conviction, yet her pre-hallucinogenic writing has the uninhibitedness and immediacy of a novel of today. ( from the book jacket, british reprint published in 1995).

first published in 1945, the stories collected under the title i am lazarus are a brilliant summation of the war experiences of anna kavan in blitz-era london, working among invalided soldiers at a ‘military neurosis centre’ in mill hill. kavan’s view of the capital and some of its war victims in this momentous era are typically original and oblique: ‘ lazarus’ is a patient revived from catatonia who somehow remains institutionalized; the blitz spirit is coolly stripped of cheeriness and never-say-die in ‘ glorious boys and ‘ our city’; there is a hithcockian horror story in ‘ the gannets’, while in ‘ who has desired the sea’ and ‘ the blackout’ the ‘shell-shocked’ have ultimately only seen war exacerbate old, long-suppressed psychological wounds. chilling but compassionate classics, the i am lazarus collection, republished now after many years, are essential documents of the time – and of anna kavan. ( from the book jacket, first british edition published in 1945).

french edition, neige suivi de mal aimées.


frustrated by her wealthy father in her attempt to attend university, celia becomes hard and selfish, taking what she wants. in order to escape from her parents, she marries the first man she meets and accompanies him to the far east. after his early death, she returns to england with her baby daughter. celia becomes a successful writer and lives with a variety of men. she destroys the life of her daughter, and also that of the sister-in-law who befriends her. set earlier in this century. change the name is among the best of anna kavan's novels written when she used the name helen ferguson. it combines a strong story line with a firsthand account of english rural life, and foreshadows kavan's development as one of the most exceptional writers of her time. ( from the book jacket, british reprint published in 1993).

here are fifteen startling stories that reflect the weird, thrilling realm into which this brilliant english writer's dangerous life and powerful artistic drive propelled her - thirty years of seesawing stability and chaos: constant drug addiction, suicide attempts, productive work in painting and editing, two marriages and a son, long sojourns in mental hospitals, widely admired novels and short stories. her stories penetrate the black holes of human consciousness and perception, a region of hypnotic games and seductive hallucinations where everything is animate, where the vertiginous panic and tough pride of the outcast merge with a tender, tranquil appeal to what is beautiful and lasting. ( from the book jacket,first american edition published in 1975).

in this powerful fantasy anna kavan, whose work has become an international cult in recent years, describes the quality of life for an individual who cannot face the harsh impact of modern civilization. exploring the shifting territory between the concrete world and the world of dreams, she questions both the ultimate reality of personal identity, and of existence itself. her narrator, reduced to the lowest depths of misfortune by some unexplained event, sets out on a kafkaesque journey to the rock-fortress of eagles' nest, and finds himself in some far-off, alien landscape, now vast and arid, burning under a searing sun, now lush with tropical vegetation or drenched by torrential waterfalls. his struggles to meet his former benefactor and future employer, a., his sinister encounters with the master's servants and with the local inhabitants, and this hallucinatory visions, lead to a crushing denouement that brings final recognition of his role in the scheme of things. first published in 1957 and now re-issued, this novel is one of the finest examples of anna kavan's powers to explore 'the nocturnal worlds of our dreams, fantasies, imagination and non-reason', anais nin in the novel of the future. ( from the book jacket, british reprint published in 1976).

originally published as helen ferguson.


originally published as author helen ferguson


originally published in u k by jonathan cape in 1940 and in u s by doubleday in 1945.


published july 1st 2006 by peter owen publishers (first published 1967)


recently discovered, this hitherto unpublished novel presages, through its undertones and imagery, some of anna kavan's later and most enduring fiction. the parson of the title is not a cleric but an upright young army officer, so nicknamed in his regiment stationed in the east. one leave in his native homeland he meets a rich and beguiling beauty whom he equates with the girl of his dreams. the days that oswald spends with rejane, riding in and exploring the wild moorland, have their own enchantment. but rejane grows restless in this desolate land, while seeming to discourage any intimacy with her adoring companion. until, that is, she persuades him to take her to a sinister castle situated on a treacherous headland. the parson is less a tale of unrequited love than an exploration of divided selves, momentarily locked in an unequal embrace. passion is revealed as play of the senses as well as a destructive force. it is this pervasive quality in the writing that sets the narrative apart from purely romantic conventions. ( from the book jacket, first british edition published in 1995).

set in an unspecified but eerily familiar landscape, guilty is told from the point of view of a young man named mark. the novel begins in his childhood and as his father returns from war. in spite of being garlanded as a hero, mark's father declares himself a pacifist and is immediately reviled in a country still suffering from wartime divisions. when he is forced into exile mark meets mr spector, a mysterious figure who becomes a dominant force in his life, overseeing his schooling, his employment and even his accommodation. when he tries to break way from mr spector to pursue and engagement with the beautiful carla, mark's life beins to unravel. thwarted at every turn by a kafkaesque bureaucracy, he falls prey to the machinations and insecurities of his guilt-ridden mind. drawing on many of kavan's familiar themes, " guilty" will be welcomed by those who already know and appreciate her work and a revelation to those who don't. ( from the book jacket, first british edition published in 2007).

since anna kavan died in 1968 there has been a strong revival of interest in her writings. asylum piece, a study of various aspects of insanity, first appeared in 1940 and still enjoys a reputation as one of its author's most original and perceptive books. it as, however, long been out of print. reviewing the original edition in the sunday times sir despond mac carthy wrote: ' if asylum piece is not based on actual experience it is certainly an astonishing achievement. ... what is remarkable is that the subject of these stories not only kept the lamp alight in the fog of, at any rate, impending insanity, but was able to project dramatically the experience of fellow sufferers. that is just what the really insane can never do. ... there is a beauty about these stories which has nothing to do with their pathological interest, and is the result of art. two or three, if signed by a famous name, might rank among the story-teller's memorable achievements. there is beauty in the stillness of the author's ultimate despair.' ( from the book jacket, british reprint published in 1972).

since her death in 1968 there has been a strong international revival of interest in anna kavan's work. the novella and short stories in this collection have been selected and edited by rhys davies from ms s found after her death. they represent both her early and later writing. the novella my soul in china belongs to the former category. written after the failure of a second marriage, it contains autobiographical elements, including the experiences of mental breakdown and drug addiction. its central character, a desperately unhappy woman, find temporary refuge, after the breakdown of her marriage, with an itinerant australian. their brief idyllic time together, spent at a lonely coastal retreat, is poignantly described. but when kay's lover prepares to return to his family, she has once again to face the nightmare fear of mental isolation and loss of personal identity. the nine short stories show the author experimenting with new ideas and reflect, sometimes wryly, some of the contemporary problems -violence in society, pollution - that concerned her. all, however, reveal the weird atmosphere of mingled fantasy and reality which distinguished anna kavan's work. ( from the book jacket, first british edition published in 1975).

since her death in 1968, there has been a strong revival of interest in anna kavan's work. sleep has his house, combining autobiography with surrealist experimentation, deserves to rank with the author's best works. in her foreword anna kavan writes: ' life is tension or the result of tension; without tension the creative impulse cannot exist. if human life be taken as the result of tension between the two polarities night and day, night, the negative pole, must share equal importance with the positive day. at night, under the influence of cosmic radiations quite different from those of the day, human affairs are apt to come to a crisis. at night most human beings die and are born. sleep has his house describes in the night-time language certain stages in the development of one individual human being. no interpretation is needed of this language we have all spoken in childhood and in our dreams; but for the sake of unity a few words before every section indicate the corresponding events of the day.' ( from the book jacket, british reprint published in 1973).

the dark sisters is set in the london of the twenties, in a world in which the convulsions of the first world war, female emancipation and general social upheaval have made possible the life towards which beryl dean aspires. the sisters, emerald and karen, live an independent metropolitan life: emerald as a successful but manipulative fashion model. her younger sister karen seems to be unmotivated and content to live in a fantasy world of her own making, so emerald tries to engineer a match with a rich young man. as in a charmed circle, the novel seems to end with a return to the status quo. emerald, afflicted by guilt, takes karen back to london, where she can return to her imaginary life. ( from " the case of anna kavan", biograpy by david callard, 1992).

the author of this extraordinary novel was a heroin addict who died by her own hand in december of 1968 [ note: this is not proven - j. h.]. out of her terrifying experience with mental illness she created a body of fiction of intense, near-surrealist artistry, but it is only posthumously that she is receiving the wider acclaim which her writing commands. the present work, first published in 1956, contains some of her finest prose and is clearly autobiographical in nature. it tells the story of a young girl, rejected by her narcissistic and vengeful mother, whose life thereafter is yet another series of betrayal that can lead only to the dead-end of madness and death. like sylvia plath, anna kavan was capable of nearly perfect control over language as she strove to describe, in the simplest and most ordinary of terms, the bizarre and hallucinatory landscape of her oncoming and inevitable derangement. ( from the book jacket, first american edition, published in 1972).

the background of helen ferguson's new novel is a small english village in which thomas spender and his wife judith form the centre of a community of very varying characters. adam green, a young poet and writer, comes back from the east and is caught up in the web if judith's dreamy and yet possessive personality. there are many other threads in the story which act and react upon the principal theme and are inextricably interwoven with it. miss ferguson handles her many characers with great skill and particularly uses the art of anti-climax with such a success that the event to which everything in the story leads up never actually takes place. ( from the book jacket, first british edition published in 1936).

the book is the story of the struggle in a young man's nature of two opposing forces, one of which urges him to escape the painful realities of life through wealth, which alone seems to him to give its possessor leisure and opportunity for the appreciation of beauty, while the other, with equal insistence, forces him into the fight that is being waged to set that beauty free for all mankind. it shows something of the conflict in which the gentle, the innocent, the dreamers of this world inevitably become involved with cruelty, ugliness, and oppression. swithin's struggle is one in which every reader, to a greater or lesser extent, has shared; its echo is to be found in every human heart. helen ferguson has written in rich get rich a beautiful and moving book, which helps the reader to think as well as to feel. ( from the book jacket, first british edition published in 1937).

the book, whose equine hero kathbar takes his name from an acronymic amalgam of kavan and karl theodore bluth, is a highly personal dream allegory. kathbar is a circus horse and, at the end of the war, all circus horses are to be sent to the slaughterhouse. however, kathbar, is an exceptional horse who can sing and recite poetry. he runs away from his owner (significantly named hugh), to become a celebrity in an artist's colony by founding a school of ' hoofism'. when kathbar learns that hoofism is finished, he falls into depression. yet, depression is never far from the surface of kathbar's life. ' life can't exist without the pull of annihilation.' he comments at one point. again: ' it's amazing how people who refuse to accept death existentially are the very ones most apt to disseminate it in a factual way. you open up your arms to death and create a living process out of the pull of nothing. these others don't create anything, they simply kill.' at a party held for him kathbar becomes obstreperous and drunk, passes out and wakes up in an asylum, uncertain as to whether he is a man or a horse. ' i got the impression that it was not the hospital which existing for the benefit of the patients, but the patients whose function it was to provide the staff with an excuse for drawing their salaries. … it was a rule of the asylum to accede to every request made by an inmate, then simply ignore it.' a ' mr. patronage', a friend from the past, sends kathbar to a 'mountain clinic', where a dr hieronymus tells him that his depression is due to the constitutional abnormality and that he is 'too gifted to lead the life of a horse'. hieronymus, an alter-ego of bluth, explains his 'existential psychology', kathbar recovers his memory and sanity and returns to the circus. from " the case of anna kavan", biography by david callard, 1992). b y davi d callar d:

the people in this story live through the same situations twice over. their identifies are equally real, or unreal, in each case; but, because of slight variations in background and atmosphere, neither the outcome nor they themselves are quite the same the second time, and the brain-fever bird's question, who are you? can only be left unanswered - the answer could just as well be either of their different identifies; or both; or neither of them. anna kavan, a write with a vision entirely her own, believes there is no such thing as absolute reality. for her nothing is what it seems, everything is essentially unknown, and the components of so-called reality - circumstances, environment, etc. - are fluid, in a continually changing state, rather like different coloured spotlights, affording brief distorted glimpses of events and people, which never remain the same for more than a second. in this fluctuating unreliable light, certain momentary aspects of the lives of the characters are here twice recorded, before they pass into other moments and different aspects of their existence - a repetition which accentuates the economy and directness of the writing, quite without superfluous decoration. her novels and short stories have for some years been considered by eminent critics as among the most absorbing now being written. lawrence durrell described her as belonging with virginia woolf, anais nin and djuna barnes, to 'the great subjective-feminine tradition which has tried to vive us a poetic notation of the female artist's world'. this new book takes her work a stage further in experimental technique and uncompromising imagination. ( from the book jacket, first british edition published in 1963).

this edition is a british reprint published in 1995 by peter owen limited london, u. k and distributed in the u. s. by dufour editions, inc. it was originally published by jonathan cape, london, 1935 as author helen ferguson.


this hitherto unpublished novel, an exciting literary discovery, is from anna kavan's most creative period. a work of sustained imaginative vision, it contains some of the novelists' best hallucinogenic writing. the beautiful 'glass girl' luz is pursued from one imaginary country to another by luke, whose love for her becomes a pathological obsession. luke is as bewitched, too, by the indris, singing lemurs whose magical harmonies he encounters in a tropical forest of pellucid charms. the lemurs have no enemies in their jungle world 'where intelligence and affection were cherished, and destruction and cruelty had no place'. luke has chosen his wandering life of exile to escape his own shortcomings and failure in human relations. and he wants to protect luz, estranged from her sadistic husband chas. luke himself reveals shades of latent sadism and becomes dependent on tablets that induce horror, shame and ecstatic excitement. the narrative is projected like a series of dream sequences, enigma and illusion intertwined in the mound of kafka. yet, as in her novel ice, anna kavan has fashioned a coruscating landscape of her own making - apocalyptic, compelling, unforgettable. ( from the book jacket, first british edition published in 1994).

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