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Asylum Piece (Peter Owen Modern Classic) av…
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Asylum Piece (Peter Owen Modern Classic) (urspr publ 1940; utgåvan 2001)

av Anna Kavan

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
1637128,182 (4.14)11
This collection of stories, mostly interlinked and largely autobiographical, chart the descent of the narrator from the onset of neurosis to final incarceration in a Swiss clinic. The sense of paranoia, of persecution by a foe or force that is never given a name, evokes The Trial by Kafka, a writer with whom Kavan is often compared, although her deeply personal, restrained, and almost foreign  --accented style has no true model. The same characters who recur throughout--the protagonist's unhelpful "adviser," the friend and lover who abandons her at the clinic, and an assortment of deluded companions--are sketched without a trace of the rage, self-pity, or sentiment that have marked more recent accounts of mental instability.… (mer)
Medlem:peptastic
Titel:Asylum Piece (Peter Owen Modern Classic)
Författare:Anna Kavan
Info:Peter Owen Publishers (2001), Paperback, 188 pages
Samlingar:Owned, Ditt bibliotek, Favoriter
Betyg:*****
Taggar:Ingen/inga

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Asylum Piece av Anna Kavan (1940)

Ingen/inga
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The American edition of Asylum Piece, published in 1946 by Doubleday, combines two volumes of Anna Kavan’s remarkable stories first published in the UK by Jonathan Cape: Asylum Piece (1940), and I am Lazarus (1945). From 1929 to 1937, Kavan (1901-1968) had published six novels under the name Helen Ferguson (she was born Helen Emily Woods, married Donald Ferguson in 1920, and later took the name Anna Kavan from a character who appeared in her own fiction). The stories in Asylum Piece represent a radical and stunning departure from her earlier work and came in the wake of several traumatic life events: the death of an infant daughter, the dissolution of her second marriage and a suicide attempt. In 1938, suffering from severe depression, she was admitted to a psychiatric clinic in Switzerland. Many of the stories collected in this volume are set in just such an institution and depict fragile, brittle states of mind. Others, such as those collected in Part One of the American edition, titled “The Summons,” present characters being persecuted, mistreated or imprisoned for no clear reason by a monolithic, impenetrable bureaucracy. The focal point in Part One is often “the advisor,” an official to whom the narrator reports for advice and guidance, but who proves to be either untrustworthy or uncooperative. In the enigmatic, Kafkaesque title piece, “The Summons,” the unnamed narrator is facing charges of some sort, but can’t find out what the charges are, who has made the accusation, or even what the punishment might be. Part Two, “Asylum Piece,” comprises eight stories, by turns moving and unsettling, written from a variety of perspectives, dramatizing interactions between inmates of a psychiatric clinic and those who treat and care for them. Particularly memorable is the fifth of these, which begins on a radiant summer morning with a young man and woman arriving at the clinic by car. The woman is nervous, exhausted from traveling and somewhat oblivious, and must be helped inside. The man is impatient and openly annoyed with her. At the interview with the head doctor, in response to questioning, she declares that she is there against her will and that she never wanted to come to the clinic, but even as she speaks she realizes that her hysterical tone is working against her and that her fate is sealed. Once in her assigned room, she descends into a state of despair. The stories in Part Three, “I am Lazarus,” describe a variety of scenarios and often depict the horrific effects of war on mental states. One exception is “Benjo,” in which the narrator recalls encountering a local character named Benjo when she was living in “the other country.” She had bought an old farmstead house and workers had completed extensive renovations when Benjo shows up at her door. He is friendly and the two build a rapport, but she is later disturbed by the degree of familiarity he assumes and begins to suspect him of harbouring some veiled motive. Many of Kavan’s stories are written from bitter experience and the level of detail throughout the volume is often astounding. The reader will also notice the prose, which is crystal-clear and tightly controlled, a trait that carried over into her later works. In Asylum Piece Anna Kavan unflinchingly probes the murkiest recesses of the human psyche. This is a dark, disturbing, brilliant masterpiece and a landmark volume of short fiction. ( )
  icolford | Jun 10, 2020 |
I flew through this, despite the heavy subject of her descent into mental illness & short stories of an institution. I felt the pieces in which she spoke of her own paranoia captured the state of mind brilliantly, as she didn't apply retrospect (assuming she had any to apply) to explain away her state of mind but instead immersed herself, & the reader, in that neurosis. I was disappointed that the point of view switched during the tales of the clinic, but at the same time the different stories from different patients were well told & unnerving, & as some of the characters could have well been Anna herself it suggests maybe to discuss her time there in first person was too hard for her. ( )
  SadieBabie | Jun 23, 2018 |
Rich. Poetic. Real. Kavan is a master at capturing the insane aspect of all of us. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
Reading Asylum Piece and Other Stories (1940) is a visceral experience. Picture yourself staring into a full body-and-mind mirror that Anna Kavan intentionally cracked so that you could feel and see yourself thoroughly shattered, and if you're empathetically bent at all, you may acquire an inkling of what it was like being one of Anna Kavan's unnamed isolated characters suffering from mental illness, looking into that mirror. Or catch a glimpse, in the least, of what it was like being a young and alienated and misunderstood and suicidal Anna Kavan. Contorted realities reflected back out of that impossible mirror come sneaking up on you, quietly shrieking. Background scenarios are terse and incomplete; we do not know how so and so ended up here in this asylum or there in that asylum; we only know that they are here or there, trapped inside, and perceive themselves incarcerated and persecuted unjustly by a real or imaginary litany of unknown "Enemies": jailers, nurses, husbands, advisors, and, in one stranger case, "Patrons". Don't assume, however, that these asylum occupants without proper identities are all unreliable narrators, or that they're all deluded, deranged, purely paranoid — in a word — insane. Some are; some aren't. Some are estranged from reality only some of the time; others, most of the time. Sometimes those labelled "mad" are in fact the most sane, as Kavan astutely noted elsewhere, in her next story collection I Am Lazarus (1945), I believe. Kavan crowned ambiguity king page after exquisite page with opaque clarity in Asylum Piece and Other Stories.

In "The Birds," for instance, one of Kavan's unnamed narrator's (or is every story narrated by the same unnerved, come-undone-narrator?, hard to say exactly, but it's likely the many narrators) notices two brightly colored birds outside her window. Her window where, exactly? Kavan either leaves the window's ill-defined whereabouts unknown, or the narrator doesn't know. Asylums, after all, in Kavan's captivating hands, can just as soon be houses, schools, churches, museums, as they can be literal institutional asylums. Her "servant" (i.e., a person of unspecified title who keeps a constant eye on her, a "shadow"), however, does not see the birds. Is it another hallucination?

What conclusion was I to draw from this? It seemed incredible that anyone could fail to observe those twin spots of color, more striking than jewels on the gray January background. No, I could only presume that the birds were visible to me alone. That is the conclusion to which I have held ever since: for my ethereal visitors have not deserted me.

We've all seen things, haven't we, from time to time; or at least thought we've seen things (and seen them whether we've ever been inside an asylum of one kind or another or not, if we're honest) that others have failed to see, right? Are we mad for seeing such things? Seeing things levitate? Seeing ghosts? Should we have been locked up indefinitely for what we've seen like so many of Kavan's unnamed narrators? Notice, also, the subtle implication in that last sentence italicized in the paragraph above: that even while the birds (i.e., the symbols now of the narrator's only means of expressing her hope for freedom or escape -- and that, too, even if they are just chirping hallucinations -- have not deserted her; whom then, we may wonder, perhaps already has "deserted her"? History is replete with misunderstood, or vilified, human beings, being abandoned to asylums.

"The Birds" and another of the few fully formed stories, such as "The Birthmark" — my favorite in this collection, in fact, and one, with its crux of incarceration and climax pivoting off the curious birthmark, the image of a "rose", makes me wonder if maybe Jean Genet derived any inspiration from it a few years later when he sat down to write his second novel, The Miracle of the Rose — and the many more multifaceted vignettes, make up the individual shards of Anna Kavan's complex shattering in Asylum Pieces.

Some shards are sharper than others, like "At Night" or the devastating "Just Another Failure", but they're all keen enough to cut you to the bone, so be careful turning Asylum Pieces' pages, lest your eyes begin bleeding: An iron band has been clamped round my head, and just at this moment the jailer strikes the cold metal a ringing blow which sends needles of pain into my eye sockets. . .; or your imagination begins reeling, and you find yourself trapped in her peculiar prisms, within the haunting "eternal fog" of some dark subterranean chamber filled with rats and roaches and little hope of escape, comrade of shut-in and shut-out characters voicing their confused consensus of victimized outrage from various obscure "asylums" they've had the misfortune to inhabit, these yes diagnosable "deranged" but somehow, even if for only a moment, still sane, still dignified, Underground Women of Anna Kavan's; all of whom, I'm positive, would've made Dostoyevski proud. ( )
10 rösta absurdeist | May 7, 2015 |
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. ( )
2 rösta proustitute | Jul 17, 2014 |
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» Lägg till fler författare (1 möjlig)

Författarens namnRollTyp av författareVerk?Status
Kavan, Annaprimär författarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Aslanyan, AnnaÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Marshall-van Wieringen, M.Översättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
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This collection of stories, mostly interlinked and largely autobiographical, chart the descent of the narrator from the onset of neurosis to final incarceration in a Swiss clinic. The sense of paranoia, of persecution by a foe or force that is never given a name, evokes The Trial by Kafka, a writer with whom Kavan is often compared, although her deeply personal, restrained, and almost foreign  --accented style has no true model. The same characters who recur throughout--the protagonist's unhelpful "adviser," the friend and lover who abandons her at the clinic, and an assortment of deluded companions--are sketched without a trace of the rage, self-pity, or sentiment that have marked more recent accounts of mental instability.

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