ICE by Anna Kavan. Picador. 40p.
Inside the cover of this book is a photograph of the author. She leans forward, carefully curled hair, a neat sweater, a heart shaped locket, meticulously made-up and smiling. The sort of woman you see in country pubs on Sunday mornings.
Anna Kavan was a junkie for the last 30 years of her life, and died at 67 in London, 1968.
It is understandable that Ice, considered her best work, should be coloured by her experiences with heroin. In fact she has used ice as a metaphor for heroin. Vast glaciers of ice rapidly overtaking earth.
The plot is Kafka-esque search by a man for the girl he once loved. His search takes him through Northern countries rapidly being brought to a halt by a combination of ice and facism. Time and again he almost finds her, but she disappears or is killed, to be born again and provide the quarry for his hunt.
There is a terrible inevitability to the prose. Search, find, lose, lost – is the rhythm that dominates the book. Altogether a fine metaphysical sci-fi adventure that recalls C S Lewis, and certainly deserves to be read.