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Anna Kavan was one of the greatest unsung enigmas in 20th-century British literature. Born asHelen Ferguson, who lived a fraught childhood and two failed marriages led her to change her name to that of one of her characters. Despite struggling with mental illness and heroin addiction for most of her life, she was still able to write fiction that was as powerful and memorable as any English female writer of the last 150 years."
A painter, heroin addict and author of more than 15 books, Kavan (1901-1968) has developed a following in this country through books like A Charmed Circle and Mercury. The Parson, a posthumous discovery and the last of her novels to be published, is a compelling blend of heady description, dime-store plot and Poe-like devotion to the characterization of inner demons. Kavan's narrative consists almost exclusively of the interior monologues of Oswald, a soldier so upstanding he is nicknamed the Parson, and Rejane, a ferocious beauty for whom only nature is a fair match. The brief novel encompasses their meeting, their month-long acquaintance amid ghostly moors and their parting-with emphasis on all base, disturbing desires and conflict. Kavan fans will revel in the lyrical risk-taking of her prose, the emergence of some of her hallmark images and themes and her brilliant juxtapositions of ancient and modern, rich and poor, good and evil. This edition features three facsimile pages from an original draft with revisions; but, while it admits to "minor editorial emendations," it provides no footnotes for the changes. (Feb.)
"A writer of such chillingly matter-of-fact, unself-pitying vigor that her vision transcends itself." New Yorker"