Best of the Web

Josh Vigil on Anna Kavan

The Anna Kavan renaissance continues, this time in the United States with thanks to back catalogue reissues from NYRB Classics. At Full Stop, Josh Vigil joins in the Kavan appreciation:

Kavan is still best known for being an ‘experimental writer’ — though there is something isolating about such a title. The presumption is that Kavan is a niche writer (which, she is — but does she have to be?). Kavan’s style certainly is not mainstream, but calling her writing experimental seems like a scapegoat, a way to further divorce her from the larger mainstream conversation. Which is to say, this is a process of doing to Kavan what she for so long feared in her daily existence: alienation. …

Kavan’s work is disorienting. Her writing gets under your skin. Her characters are both delusional and easy to root for; you want them to be victorious in the war against their oppressors. On the surface, the stories are most concerned with institutionalization and imprisonment, the effects of the Second World War, and drug abuse. But, once tossed in the Kavan grinder, the stories all deal in some way with broader themes within the specificity of Kavan’s experience: alienation, loneliness, the cruelty of the world, and oppressive social and bureaucratic structures.