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Asylum Piece by Anna Kavan
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Asylum Piece (1940)

by Anna Kavan

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Many of these stories read as three or four star worthy, but others didn't keep my attention well. I loved the author's "Ice", but I didn't find that magical connection between the book and myself here. I rate it two stars in the Goodreads meaning of "It was OK." ( )
  wjmcomposer | Nov 5, 2014 |
Many of these stories read as three or four star worthy, but others didn't keep my attention well. I loved the author's "Ice", but I didn't find that magical connection between the book and myself here. I rate it two stars in the Goodreads meaning of "It was OK." ( )
  wjmcomposer | Nov 5, 2014 |
4.5 stars

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 Asylum Piece and Ice as I’ve not read more just yet—is the cause for the other two writers being better known.

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 The Waves 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.

My main issue with this collection is that it wasn’t Ice, an attitude I couldn't help but have when beginning the stories. Ice 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. ( )
1 vote proustitute | Jul 17, 2014 |
4.5 stars

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 Asylum Piece and Ice as I’ve not read more just yet—is the cause for the other two writers being better known.

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 The Waves 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.

My main issue with this collection is that it wasn’t Ice, an attitude I couldn't help but have when beginning the stories. Ice 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. ( )
  proustitute | Jul 17, 2014 |
Kavan struggled with a heroine addiction along with events of hopelessness leading her to psychiatric institutions. Asylum Piece provides a collection of intimate writings of her time in an asylum. A bleak, poignant expose into her deepest thoughts, self-analysis in a plush tasteful prose.

I couldn't help but feel intrusive as I read Asylum Piece, a front row seat of her kaleidoscope of thoughts as her mind aimlessly wonders from paranoia with heavy ominous tones. Despite the disturbing nature of her writings they have a lovely ethereal feel which creates a conflict bordering on a brutal beauty. Insightful collection of a woman allowing herself to be exposed in all her nakedness unveiling her mind to the world.

Thanks s.penkevich for the reco ( )
  Melinda_H | Apr 22, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
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Anna Kavanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aslanyan, AnnaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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When I was fourteen my father's health made it necessary for him to go abroad for a year.
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