Asylum Piece, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (2 ratings)

Description

This collection of stories, mostly interlinked and largely autobiographical, chart the descent of the narrator from the onset of neurosis to final incarceration in a Swiss clinic.

The sense of paranoia, of persecution by a foe or force that is never given a name, evokes The Trial by Kafka, a writer with whom Kavan is often compared, although her deeply personal, restrained, and almost foreign accented style has no true model.

The same characters who recur throughoutthe protagonist's unhelpful "adviser," the friend and lover who abandons her at the clinic, and an assortment of deluded companionsare sketched without a trace of the rage, self-pity, or sentiment that have marked more recent accounts of mental instability."

Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 212 pages
  • Publisher: Peter Owen Publishers
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Anthologies (non-poetry)
  • ISBN: 9780720611236

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Reviews

Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by
4

4.5 stars<br/><br/>Anna Kavan needs to be more widely read. She is very much a stylistic link between Woolf and Bowen, but perhaps the sheer unclassifiable nature of Kavan’s work—and I’m judging this solely on <i>Asylum Piece</i> and <i>Ice</i> as I’ve not read more just yet—is the cause for the other two writers being better known.<br/><br/>Kavan mixes autobiography, surrealism, dream, fantasy, reality, and speculative fiction all at once. Coupled with all of these meandering genres and subgenres in her thematics is a prose style that is as inventive and unique in the modernist sense as Woolf's, as well as incisive in its social/political commentary as Bowen’s. Where Kavan differs is her highly subjective approach to the problems of identity, connection, and loss of autonomy: while these are all themes Woolf and Bowen explore in their own work, Kavan explores them textually at an unconscious level. While <i>The Waves</i> might be said to do just this (and it does), Kavan creates a world of no hope and no escape that more effectively mirrors a particular psychological state within modernist discourses. In other words, Kavan’s style is actually more in tune with the philosophical and self-analytical strains of modernism than even Woolf at her greatest.<br/><br/>My main issue with this collection is that it wasn’t <i>Ice</i>, an attitude I couldn't help but have when beginning the stories. <i>Ice</i> is a book of pure genius, such a bleak and yet beautiful portrait of a world that is also not a world. Another issue is how the book is marketed as being interconnected stories rooted in autobiography—one could very well read these stories as unrelated, and I think that the issue with reading too much of the author’s life into his or her own work is something very rooted in modernist British fiction. The “I” in Kavan isn’t only her; it’s everyone. This is something that she shared with Woolf and Bowen, and I think that not only should more people be reading Kavan who are interested in this period, especially those interested in women authors of this period, but readers should value the stories in this collection for works of art and brilliant insights into humanity and hopelessness rather than as autobiographical texts. Doing the latter reduces the philosophical engagement which is so markedly evident in Kavan’s work.

Review by
4

4.5 stars<br/><br/>Anna Kavan needs to be more widely read. She is very much a stylistic link between Woolf and Bowen, but perhaps the sheer unclassifiable nature of Kavan’s work—and I’m judging this solely on <i>Asylum Piece</i> and <i>Ice</i> as I’ve not read more just yet—is the cause for the other two writers being better known.<br/><br/>Kavan mixes autobiography, surrealism, dream, fantasy, reality, and speculative fiction all at once. Coupled with all of these meandering genres and subgenres in her thematics is a prose style that is as inventive and unique in the modernist sense as Woolf's, as well as incisive in its social/political commentary as Bowen’s. Where Kavan differs is her highly subjective approach to the problems of identity, connection, and loss of autonomy: while these are all themes Woolf and Bowen explore in their own work, Kavan explores them textually at an unconscious level. While <i>The Waves</i> might be said to do just this (and it does), Kavan creates a world of no hope and no escape that more effectively mirrors a particular psychological state within modernist discourses. In other words, Kavan’s style is actually more in tune with the philosophical and self-analytical strains of modernism than even Woolf at her greatest.<br/><br/>My main issue with this collection is that it wasn’t <i>Ice</i>, an attitude I couldn't help but have when beginning the stories. <i>Ice</i> is a book of pure genius, such a bleak and yet beautiful portrait of a world that is also not a world. Another issue is how the book is marketed as being interconnected stories rooted in autobiography—one could very well read these stories as unrelated, and I think that the issue with reading too much of the author’s life into his or her own work is something very rooted in modernist British fiction. The “I” in Kavan isn’t only her; it’s everyone. This is something that she shared with Woolf and Bowen, and I think that not only should more people be reading Kavan who are interested in this period, especially those interested in women authors of this period, but readers should value the stories in this collection for works of art and brilliant insights into humanity and hopelessness rather than as autobiographical texts. Doing the latter reduces the philosophical engagement which is so markedly evident in Kavan’s work.

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