A Stranger on Earth: The Life and Work of Anna Kavan by Jeremy Reed - review by Francis King

Francis King

A Marmoreal Mind

A Stranger on Earth: The Life and Work of Anna Kavan


Peter Owen 209pp £13.99

In 1992 Peter Owen published an excellent life of Anna Kavan by David Callard. That he should now so soon publish another by Jeremy Reed is an indication of his enthusiasm for this demanding but infinitely rewarding author. The two biographies differ in that Callard excels as a chronicler of the life and Jeremy Reed as an expositor of the writings. They resemble each other in that both have been intermittently balked by Kavan’s determination to remain, as she once put it, ‘the world’s best-kept secret’. She rarely revealed much about herself even to her closest friends, and what she did reveal all too often eventually proved to be a lie. Systematically she destroyed almost all her diaries, correspondence and private papers.

Before Callard embarked on his book, I once asked Kavan’s close friend, long-term lodger and one of her two residuary legatees, the drama critic Raymond Marriott, why he did not write a biography, to receive the surprising answer that he did not know enough about the subject. Her other residuary

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