Nate D's Reviews > Julia and the Bazooka, and Other Stories

Julia and the Bazooka, and Other Stories by Anna Kavan
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Oct 12, 10

bookshelves: britain, surrealism, stories, read-in-2010, ice-and-snow, favorites
Read from October 04 to 12, 2010

All I wanted then was for everything to go on as before, so that I could stay deeply asleep, and be no more than a hole in space, not here or anywhere at all, for as long as possible, preferably forever.

Anna Kavan's words: immaculate, isolated, haunt(ed/ing). Characters float through their lives, cut-off from themselves and the world, conveyed in a chilling calm which nonetheless admits the occasional description of some bizarre trauma in monolithic, ravingly vivid prose. Many highlights here, including the title entry's fragmented, dissociated life-story, the eerie automotive un-dreaming of "The High Mountains" and "Fog", the anti-Crash descriptions of "The Old Address". Actually, cars are extremely relevant here throughout -- cars and syringes as vehicles of escape, just a couple of a series of repeated motifs and scenarios that bind this volume firmly together.

I can't really think of anyone else that writes like this. The comparisons to Robbe-Grillet's detachment are apt, but there's a different sort of emotional/psychological depth underpinning her stories and imagery, which Robbe-Grillet on the other hand tends to deliberately deny the reader any glimpse of.

The headlights pounce again, the white flare of light, jabbing forward, becomes an instrument to impale, to eviscerate. Four shapes are transfixed, four white faces, frighteningly close, against a black backdrop of reeling mountains, white fish-faces staring with open mouths. The air goes colder and darker, thunder booms in the ice; ice-cold breathing down from the summits like a command. Assert the supremacy of the high mountains.

Anna Kavan seems to be very undeservedly unremembered nowadays, but posthumous work like this continues to emerge and what I've encountered so far has been incredible. (And fortunately much of her catalog isn't too hard to track down used copies of. Which you should certainly do.

The incident was unduly prolonged. Strange caterwaulings went on interminably and indistinct shapes fell about. When at last it was over, I drove on as if nothing had happened. Nothing had, really.

Collecting other notable quotes (though her every word seems notable, really) here.

(Kavan's own illustration for "A Visit".)
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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knig If the stories were outright macabre, there’d be a perfect interface between style and subject matter. But as you point out, the chilling calmness and detachment with which Fog say is narrated, with such colourless indifference to the ordinary sensitivity (one would expect when mowing through the pedestrian crossing, as one does), revs up the impact at the end when the realisation of the full horror seeps through almost as an afterthought.

knig Forgot to mention: if you like a detached style which belies an undercurrent of fragmented human reality, try Par Lagerkvist's 'the dwarf'

Nate D Yeah, I definitely think the style actually heightens the emotional intensity, though it seems to dampen it at first. And thanks for the recommendation -- totally intrigued to read that now.

message 4: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben Winch I've never seen that illustration before - it's brilliant!

Nate D I'd really like to find more of her visual work!

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