Anna Kavan’s Nocturnal Language

 

Anna Kavan

 

Anna Kavan is a truly unique figure in English Literature. She is a combination of Djuna Barnes, Virginia Woolf, Anaïs Nin and Franz Kafka. Anais Nin was a great admirer of her work and unsuccessfully tried to instigate a correspondence with Kavan. Brian Aldiss described her as ‘Kafka’s sister’. She resembles Kafka in the way the development of her own ‘nocturnal language’ involved the lexicon of dreams and addiction, mental instability and alienation, all of which are familiar enough Kafka-esque themes.

 

Her best books are: A Horse’s Tale; Ice; Guilty; Sleep Has His House; My Soul in China and Who Are You?  Her other books are also wonderful. Her novels are like no other novels in existence; her short stories are surreal and haunting.

 

Self-portrait

Anna Kavan: Self-portrait

 

Here is a list of Anna Kavan’s books:

 

Asylum Piece (1940)

Change The Name (1941)

I Am Lazarus (1945)

Sleep Has His House (1948)

The Horse’s Tale (with K. T. Bluth) (1949)

A Scarcity of Love (1956)

Eagle’s Nest (1957)

A Bright Green Field and Other Stories (1958)

Who Are You? (1963)

Ice (1967)

Julia and the Bazooka (1970)

My Soul in China (1975)

My Madness: Selected Writings (1990)

Mercury (1994)

The Parson (1995)

Guilty (2007)

 

Here is R J Dent’s  short video on the books of Anna Kavan:

If you do decide to read Anna Kavan, it might be best to start with Ice or Guilty or Who Are You? and then move on to reading the others. You won’t be disappointed. But you will find yourself alone in a strange landscape with no recognisable landmarks. Enjoy the experience.

  

Anna Kavan’s Nocturnal Language

 

© R J Dent (2013)

 

www.rjdent.com

 

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5 Responses to “Anna Kavan’s Nocturnal Language”

  1. amotz Says:

    HI,

    I’m a journalist from Israel, desperatly and urgently looking for the source of this Anna Kavan photo on this page.
    Any chance you know the source?
    I can be reached by the mail above or on phone +972-3-5632502
    Thanks and best regards

  2. Pascale Petit Says:

    Thanks for posting this. Anna Kavan was a huge influence on my own early work, particularly Ice. It’s good to know someone else thinks she’s very special.

    Best

    Pascalex

  3. Alexandra Felton Says:

    Hi – I really like AK’s work and often find I’m in a minority. It’s hard to find good stuff about her, so thanks for this. I don’t know a single person who’s read any of her books.

  4. Tom Allen Says:

    This is really good info on Anna Kavan. I like your short library film on her books too. You’ve got a great set of books.

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