Saturday, September 29, 2007

A look at Anna Kavan's new book

Anna Kavan's "found" novel Guilty comes out this week in the US and Strange Horizons has a look at it and Kavan's most popular novel, Ice. Reviewer/blogger Abigail Nussbaum appropriately praises Ice, though she reveals some awkwardness in Guilty. And she also appropriately questions the idea of publishing an author's work posthumously.

On top of reissuing Ice and several of her other novels, Kavan's publishers have also posthumously brought to light a "rediscovered" work, Guilty. There is a natural tendency to distrust such novels, with readers and reviewers making the reasonable argument that, had the novel been finished and worthy of publication, it would have seen the light of day within the author's lifetime. To a certain extent, Guilty seems to justify this bias. It gives off the impression of not having cooked quite long enough, and there is a dissonance between its first two thirds and final third that suggests that a final rewrite might have been planned and never carried out. Nevertheless, it is by no means an unworthy read.

I have a feeling that I won't have the same problem with the novel. Kavan's early work was full of coming of age stories, but her later work was more surreal. I've always wanted one that combined the two.

(Thanks to Matt Cheney for pointing the way to this essay. He also has some work at Strange Horizons.)

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