Books by Anna Kavan

ICE by Anna Kavan
Released: Nov. 14, 2017

"A gripping and uniquely strange work of science fiction."
This 50th-anniversary edition of a novel about a surreal pursuit through an apocalyptic world should bring new attention to Kavan (1901-1968; Who Are You, 1963, etc.), a writer of intense imagination. Read full book review >
Released: March 20, 1996

A first US appearance for a novel of acutely detailed alienation and despairing acceptance, first published in 1935 in Britain under the pseudonym Helen Ferguson. Kavan (Mercury, 1995), a writer always attuned to sensibility and mood, offers a story with a strong autobiographical element and period flavor that, in keeping with the despair that lurks beneath the surface, brings little solace. Lives intersect as Martin, the younger son of London department store magnate William Lewison, meets a woman named Anna Kavan while vacationing with his father in the south of France. Lewison Sr. has just prevailed upon Martin to divorce his French (and most unsuitable) wife, Germaine, on the grounds of her adultery with Martin's best friend, and Martin, self-centered but full of good intentions, is awaiting the final decree. Anna Kavan has left her husband Matthew in Burma and fled to London, but the attentions of a wealthy old judge who wants her to be his mistress, and the difficulties of a frustrating business venture with a friend, have driven her to France. Acknowledging her own cool and egocentric nature, she determines to make a life for herself, but she is neither wealthy nor educated, and when she meets Martin and the two fall in love, Anna wants to marry him. But Martin prefers his freedom, so Anna, unable to survive alone, reconciles with her husband. Meanwhile, the Lewison fortunes suffer a reversal, William falls ill, and Gwenda, Martin's sister, betrays her family by siding with their rival Tony Quested. Only William and Martin seem made of tougher stuff: William determines to revive his business, and Martin pays his debt to Anna by painting her portrait: It keeps ``alive a good and lovely thing which otherwise would have perished.'' Lives that are brittle, even shallow, are mercilessly stripped bare to reveal all their flaws and inadequacies by a writer who sees more often than not through a glass darkly. Chilling but intriguing. Read full book review >
MERCURY by Anna Kavan
Released: April 5, 1995

Posthumous novel from an English writer noted for the influence of drug-taking on her work (Sleep Has His House, 1980, etc.), an extended dream-turned-nightmare detailing obsessive relationships. Protagonist Luke takes comfort only from the memory of once hearing a dawn chorus of singing lemurs in the heart of a tropical jungle: ``an amazing sound, melodious and of limpid purity''—a purity that makes his subsequent disintegration even more intolerable. If the lemurs' voices are the songs of Apollo, the events that follow are the harsh words of Mercury, the god whose presence also haunts the story. On vacation, the convalescing Luke meets the extraordinarily beautiful Luz and her domineering mother. He is attracted to Luz, but never thinks about marriage and even derives a ``certain unacknowledged satisfaction'' from his beloved's enslavement by her mother. But when handsome painter Chas. arrives and successfully woos Luz, Luke is devastated. Luz and Chas. marry, but he soon begins to abuse her physically—as Luz notes towards the end, ``the anguish she feels is part of a recurring pattern of her life, of her victim's fate.'' Luke, taking hallucinogenic medications for his various ailments, and concerned for Luz's well-being, pursues her and Chas. across nameless continents and seas, but as his hallucinations become more terrible and unreal—he once sees a dragon devour Luz—he recognizes his own latent sadism. Ill and exhausted, he returns to the lemurs, realizing that he had never seen Luz ``as she really was, but only in the role he had imposed upon her...a lamb led to the slaughter.'' He catches up with her at last, and the two cling together like ``the terrified children'' they indeed are. Exquisite, lapidary prose brilliantly illuminates the eerie land that lurks deep within the mind, waiting to surprise and torment. Read full book review >