MERCURY by Anna Kavan


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 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.

Pub Date: April 5th, 1995
ISBN: 0-7206-0940-2
Page count: 136pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1995


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