Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681374147
Pages: 192
Publication Date: February 18, 2020

Machines in the HeadSelected Stories

by Anna Kavan, edited by Victoria Walker


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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 and plumbed the depths of her long addiction to heroin. This anthology of Kavan’s stories draws together a selection of her best writing from across her long career. Stories from across her collections show the range of her style: oblique and elegiac tales of breakdown and asylum incarceration 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. Her late sci-fi stories will appeal to fans of her last novel, Ice. “Five Days to Countdown,” first published in Encounter (1968) and later collected in My Soul in China, is preoccupied with Cold War concerns and the sartorial aesthetics of the 1960s, and, published here for the first time, “Starting a Career” is a futuristic spy thriller, whose protagonist sets out to become the world’s greatest enigma.

Kavan was determined to experiment throughout her writing career, and this collection is moving, funny, bizarre, poignant, often unsettling, but always distinctive and often unique. And even though better known as a writer than an artist, Kavan painted throughout her life.


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.
—Patti Smith

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.
—Doris Lessing

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.
—Rhys Davies

If you love J.G. Ballard, you should read Anna Kavan.
—Chris Power, The Guardian

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