Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Machines in the HeadSelected Stories
by Anna Kavan, edited by Victoria Walker
An NYRB Classics Original
Anna Kavan is one of the great originals of twentieth-century fiction, comparable to Leonora Carrington and Jean Rhys, a writer whose stories explored the inner world of her imagination and plumbed the depths of her long addiction to heroin. This new selection of Kavan’s stories gathers the best work from across the many decades of her career, including oblique and elegiac tales of breakdown and institutionalization from Asylum Piece (1940), moving evocations of wartime from I Am Lazarus (1945), fantastic and surrealist pieces from A Bright Green Field (1958), and stories of addiction from Julia and the Bazooka (1970). Kavan’s turn to science fiction in her final novel, Ice, is reflected in her late stories, while “Starting a Career,” about a mercenary dealer of state secrets, is published here for the first time.
Kavan experimented throughout her writing career with results that are moving, funny, bizarre, poignant, often unsettling, always unique. Machines in the Head offers American readers the first full overview of the work of a fearless and dazzling literary explorer.
Few novelists match the fierce intensity of her vision.
—J.G. Ballard, The Paris Review
Entering this haunting realm, the reader will crave to plunge deeper into her metallic and poetically surreal universe.
It is the cool lucid light of that unique mind which makes her Anna Kavan . . . There is nothing else like her writing ... She is one of the most distinctive twentieth-century novelists.
Kavan’s talent for extracting an austere beauty from intimations of doom is as compelling here as in so much of her greatly admired work.
[T]hese stories—written over three decades—offer a fascinating study of a writer who was always evolving and are exceptional as literature qua literature. . . . A writer fans of experimental fiction should know.
If you love J.G. Ballard, you should read Anna Kavan.
—Chris Power, The Guardian
[H]auntingly relevant and entirely alien . . . Dark tales deserve their day too, and with Machines in the Head, it's clear Kavan is one of the greats.
—Zack Ruskin, Shelf Awareness
Kavan wrote some of the twentieth century’s most haunting and original fiction ... To those cultish fans who see Kavan’s marginality as central to her glamour, mainstream acceptance may be unwelcome. But for this most imaginative and otherworldly of writers, whose plots seamlessly merge fantasy and reality, past and future, life and death, nothing could be more apt than a cross-century literary resurrection.
—Emma Garman, The Paris Review
A writer of hypnotic power and imagination.
—The Times Literary Supplement
Written between 1940 and her death, these stories are dark [and] strikingly written . . . Some have much of the fantastic about them. . . . there’s more than a suggestion of Kafka about Kavan.
—Andrew Stuttaford, The New Criterion