Monday, March 28, 2016

Anna Kavan, Ice (1967)

In this mysterious novel, the unnamed narrator travels from place to place. For unclear reasons, he's pursuing a girl, known only as "the girl." There's also a mutable character, sometimes an ally but mostly an enemy, called "the warden," that gets in his way. As all this is going on, the world is being steadily taken over by snow and ice.

The book can easily be placed into a genre that someone or other made up called "slipstream," which includes strange fiction that nonetheless doesn't easily fit into preƫxisting genre categories. Borges and Barthelme would easily fit in here. Also a lot of the postmodern novels I like, probably. Ice isn't exactly a science fiction novel, although it's sometimes called that. No scientific explanation is posited for the encroaching winter; it takes on the cast of an ominous, inscrutable metaphor of some sort than anything else (which may have some relation to Kavan's lifelong heroin addiction, but to just leave it at that would be reductive). And you certainly wouldn't call it fantasy. Fantastic things happen--the characters and their relationships to one another are constantly shifting, settings shift as if by magic, the narrator experiences what may or may not be hallucinations, the girl dies multiple times but remains present--but there's no clear organizing principle, putting it more into the realm of surrealism than anything else.

The book is basically...this, for a hundred thirty pages. There's no real plot, aside from the ice getting progressively worse. I feel like if it were much longer than that, it could easily become pretty tedious. But guess what: it's not much longer than that, and as it stands it's striking and captivating, and an easy recommendation to children o'er the world. Okay, so they'd have to be children with a somewhat morbid turn of mind. But who doesn't have such a thing these days?

2 Comments:

Blogger MckTchr pontificated to the effect that...

Always looking for a new read. Something quick and easy is perfect for the much needed brainless read. Thanks for the review.

10:50 PM  
Blogger Slightly Irregular GeoX pontificated to the effect that...

Well, in fairness, I think "brainless" is doing the book a bit of a disservice, not that it's super-difficult or anything.

11:42 PM  

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