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Outside the asylum of her mindnewspaperArticle, 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.
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.
A Stranger on Earth by Jeremy ReednewspaperArticle, 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.
Anna Kavan, 'Julia and the Bazooka': a critiqueblogPost, 15/12/2013
Writers such as Brian Aldiss and J.G. Ballard have praised the writings of Anna Kavan, but I find her work uneven – I couldn’t get beyond the first few pages of self-indulgent, rambling dream visions in Sleep Has His House, first published in 1948. Julia and the Bazooka is also uneven, but serves as a good introduction to the qualities (and weaknesses) of Kavan’s fiction.
Anna Kavan : brilliant like iceblogPost, 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.
Nachlaß Bluth, Karl-Theodorwebpage,
Dr Bluth's papers
Unveiling Anna Kavanwebpage,
Devotees of Anna Kavan may well be surprisedùand perhaps a little put offùthat Peter Owen Publishers has brought out another biography of the acclaimed and esoteric author (Asylum Piece, Sleep Has this House, Ice, and Mercury). However, Jeremy Reed's prying book, A Stranger on Earth, has unearthed original material that uncovers a whole lot about someone who went to great lengths to turn herself into an enigma for posterity.
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.