Thursday, August 17, 2006

Doris Lessing reviews new Anna Kavan bio

A new biography of Anna Kavan, A Stranger on Earth, by that pest Jeremy Reed is reviewed by Doris Lessing here: Independent Online Edition > Reviews.

I call Jeremy Reed a pest because he has managed to write either Fiction or Non-Fiction on nearly ever fun subject. Every time I turn around to see what's been written about Rimbaud or Artaud, there's that damn Jeremy Reed. And now he has this biography coming out on my favorite fiction writer, Anna Kavan. Underappreciated she is, but then again you might easily believe that this is the way she would have wanted it. Her work has often been compared to Doris Lessing, so her thoughts on the subject are relevant:
Changing her name, changing husbands, she destroyed letters, diaries, anything that might assist a biographer like Jeremy Reed - who has done pretty well, with no assistance. This biography is a good enough introduction: reliable, but it is a bit short on insight.
she has her own original voice in one startling novel after another. Mercury, Asylum Piece, Sleep Has His House, My Soul in China: in each Anna Kavan speaks, and with authority. She is being recognised as the most distinctive of 20th century
novelists. Her experience with drugs may have added phantoms and fantasies to
her landscapes, but it is the cool lucid light of that unique mind which makes
her Anna Kavan.

Add another book to that wish list.


  1. A pest by any other name is still... Doris Lessing's comment that Reed did pretty well 'without assistance' is not quite right. He based a considerable chunk of the Kavan biography on the unpublished manuscripts I discovered whilst researching for a PhD on this fascinating writer. He also saw fit to 'borrow' from an article I have published in an online e-journal. Indeed - a parasitic pest.

  2. When you say 'unpublished' do you mean Kavan's unpublished work? Or the work of others? Is your dissertation published? Do you have a link to your article.

    I have been extremely interested in Kavan for some time and published information on her is extremely limited, as I'm sure you know. If you are checking back on this, please let me know any other information you have on her.

  3. Sorry for the tardy response, damon. I have been away for a few weeks ... I mean unpublished work by Kavan, two lengthy typescripts of short stories, covering her activities from 1940 - 1943. My dissertation is being processed for online access as we speak. Well ... e-speak. The article Reed 'borrowed from, without appropriate acknowledgement can be found if you Google[ kavan sturm kotare ] You will see that my words have been vitrually cut and pasted into Reed's book. I have a wealth of new information on Kavan - especially biographical details, marriages, divorces, adoption of a child etc etc. She was an intriguing woman, and a great writer.
    Thanks for your interest. Jenny Sturm
    PS You will find my name in Reed's book, but not in the Cited Works list, as might be expected.