Anna Kava, “untitled 31”, c. 1960. A Chase.


Anna Kava, Ice / Neige

via — “a semantic and fictional archive designed out of a collection of data related to the British novelist Anna Kavan (1901–1968).”

Partial ‘reblog’ from everythingisnice (text & quotes by them / only the old pointless/boring pics are mine):

I had come back to investigate rumours of a mysterious impending emergency in this part of the world. But as soon as I got here she became an obsession, I could think only of her, felt I must she her immediately, nothing else mattered. Of course I knew it was utterly irrational. And so was my present uneasiness: no harm was likely to come to me in my own country; and yet I was becoming more and more anxious as I drove. (p. 6)

From the outset it is obvious that Ice is a novel about obsession but it rapidly becomes clear that it is overwhelmingly about illness. Our nameless narrator has returned to this country from business overseas and is involved with this brewing civil emergency but it is not clear what this is or what his role in it is. Government? Military? He is somehow an insider yet he seems to fear the police. It is a defining feature of the novel that the narrator is both victim and agent of authority.

It is unseasonably cold and the man at the petrol station warns him of ice as he sets off up the country lanes to visit the girl. Ethereal, blonde to the point of translucency, she is never named either. They knew each other when they were younger but she married another man:

This was past history. But the consequences of the traumatic experience were still evident in the insomnia and headaches from which I suffered. The drugs prescribed for me produced horrible dreams, in which she always appeared as a helpless victim, her fragile body broken and bruised. These dreams were not confined to sleep only, and a deplorable side effect was the way I had come to enjoy them. (p. 8-9)

So he is traumatised, hallucinating and addicted. The waking dream occurs again and again; it is always the same: she becomes trapped, entombed, in ice. “Motionless, she kept her eyes fixed on the walls moving slowly towards her, a glassy, glittering circle of solid ice, of which she was the centre.” (p. 7) Early on, the imagery recurs again and again – “Great ice-cliffs were closing in on all sides.” (p. 13); “The masses of dense foliage all round became prison walls, impassable circular green ice-walls, surging towards her.” (p. 19) – culminate in an extraordinarily intense evocation:

 “Despairingly she looked all round. She was completely encircled by the tremendous ice walls, which were made fluid by explosions of blinding light, so that they moved and changed with a continuous liquid motion, advancing in torrents of ice, avalanches as big as oceans, flooding everywhere over the doomed world. Wherever she looked, she saw the same fearful encirclement, soaring battlements of ice, an over-hanging ring of frigid, fiery, colossal waves about to collapse upon her. Frozen by the deathly cold emanating from the ice, dazzled by the blaze of crystalline ice-light, she felt herself becoming part of the polar vision, her structure becoming one with the ice and snow. As her fate, she accepted the world of ice, shining, shimmering, dead; she resigned herself to the triumph of glaciers and the death of her world.” (p. 21)


In his introduction, Priest says: “To work as allegory there has to be an exactness that the reader can grasp. In Ice the symbols are elusive, mysterious, captivating. It ends as it begins, with nothing that is practical or concluded.” If it is not an allegory, perhaps Ice is simply a wound; a raw insight into Kavan’s illness.

Continue reading “Anna Kava, Ice / Neige”

Anaïs Nin, Anna Kavan

anna kava ICE illustration_l86krm0bjN1qd5c9vo1_1280

“I have always admired Anna Kavan among the few writers who dared to explore the nocturnal world of our dreams, fantasies, and imagination. It takes courage and great skill in expression. As the events of the world prove the constancy of irrationalism, it becomes absurd to treat such events with rational logic. But people prefer to accept the notion of the absurd rather than to search for the meaning, the symbolic act which is quite clear in whoever is willing to decipher the unconscious. R.D. Laing writes in The Politics of Experience: ‘We all live in hope that authentic meetings between human beings can still occur. Psychotherapy consists in the paring away of all that stands between us, the props, masks, roles, lies, defenses, anxieties, projections ,and introjections, in short, all the carry-over from the past. Transference and countertransference that we use by habit and collusion, wittingly or unwittingly, as our currency for relationship.’

The writer who follows the designs and patterns of the unconscious achieves the same revelation. From the very first Anna Kavan went into this realm with The House of Sleep (a significant beginning) then with a classic equal to the works of Kafka titled Asylum Piece, in which the non-rational human beings caught in a web of unreality still struggle to maintain a dialogue with those who cannot understand them. In later books the waking dreamers no longer try, they simply tell of their adventures. They live in isolation with their shadows, hallucinations, prophesies. We admire the deep sea divers exploring the depths of the sea. We do not admire enough those who are able to describe their nocturnal experiences. Those who demonstrate that the surface does not contain a key to authentic experience, that the truth lies in what we feel and not what we see, or how we see it. Familiarity with inner landscapes would in the end illume the mysteries of the human mind. The scientist can report psychological findings but the writer has been there. His is a first hand report. And this is not a personal, unique voyage to the antipodes of the mind—the unconscious is a universal ocean in which all of us have roots.”

— Anaïs Nin, from The Novel of the Future amended to serve as an Introduction to Ice (not used so far) /via



Ice-inspired illustration: a halucinatory half-frozen diorama, built and photographed by Kris Hofmann. The scene was built inside a kind of huge aquarium, filled with water, and photographed from every side as it slowly froze solid.

Une représentation à l’asile

Mais, bien sûr, il n’est pas bon de se lamenter, de se plaindre ou d’élever des protestations auxquelles personne ne fait attention et qui peuvent même, pour tout ce que je sais, être finalement utilisés contre moi et à mon désavantage.


Avec n’importe qui d’autre, j’avais dû être réservée et soupçonneuse, me souvenant du proverbe: “Le silence est un ami qui ne trahit jamais personne.” Car comment pourrais-je savoir si la personne à qui je parle n’est pas un ennemi, ou peut-être en relation avec mes accusateurs ou avec ceux qui vont ultérieurement décider de mon destin ?


J’en arrivais à penser à que si je ne sortais pas de ce cercle vicieux, j’allais devenir folle, que j’allais crier, que j’allais commettre un acte de violence éhonté dans la rue. Mais le fait de savoir que les lois de mon tempérament m’interdiraient ne serait-ce qu’un soulagement de cet ordre, que j’étais inexorablement emprisonnée dans ma détermination à ne laisser paraître aucune émotion était pire que tout.


Extraits de quelques courtes nouvelles d’Asylum Piece de Anna Kavan, relues ce soir, rapidement…
Hormis ça, elle évoque et invoque Kafka de manière assez intéressante dans un certain nombre de nouvelles de ce recueil.