Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Kavan, Anna

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Name used by French-born UK writer Helen Woods (1901-1968), initially for an autobiographical character in two early novels written under her first married name, Helen Ferguson: Let Me Alone (1930) and A Stranger Still (1935). Later she took the name AK by deed-poll, and all her work from Asylum Piece and Other Stories (coll 1940) was published thus. In this collection – and in I Am Lazarus: Short Stories (coll 1945), A Bright Green Field and Other Stories (coll 1958), Julia and the Bazooka (coll 1970) and My Soul in China (coll 1975), both posthumous colls ed Rhys Davies – she used the language of Surrealism, fantasy and sf to articulate worlds which corresponded to the daemonic visions caused by her heroin addiction, and by her violently unhappy early life. That life is also reworked in fantasy terms in The House of Sleep (1947 US; vt Sleep has his House 1948 UK), in which a Night Journey into the self generates baroque inscapes. Similarly, Who Are You? (1963) is set in a tropic environment whose inhabitants behave as though they were in Hell; Ice (1967) reshapes a future ice age to like effect. Eagles' Nest (1957), which features an absurdist Childe on a desert Quest for the eponymous Dark Tower, reads as deeply bleak fantasy, though again it tends to fall back into the pain of this world. [JC]

other works: Mercury (1994), an early draft of Ice without the futuristic setting.

further reading: The Case of Anna Kavan (1992) by D A Callard.

Anna Kavan


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.