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Asylum Piece (Peter Owen Modern Classic) (English Edition) Kindle-editie
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By chance I started to re-read 'Valis' by Philip Dick as I read 'Asylum Piece'. In this novel Philip Dick does include autobiographical details exposed through both himself and an alter-ego, Horeselover (which is what Philip means in Greek) Fat (well, you can work that one out for yourself). I don't think that 'Valis' is the masterwork some people like to champion it as, but is engaging in a way that 'Asylum Piece' was not for me. (This despite there being some very unclear philosophising in 'Valis' - at least, it is unclear to me.) Now I know that Kavan, like Dick, can be a very engaging writer - but she fails this for me in this work.
And then there is the remorseless gloom of the thing. For me all of this was mastered by Schubert in the song cycle 'Winterreise', in which one individual does suffer greatly and is beaten down continually by nature which seems to taunt him. All the characters in 'Asylum Piece' suffer greatly, often at the hand of those who should love them most of all. But Schubert ends his song cycle with an extraordinary vision, that of the hurdy-gurdy man. This is someone even worse off than the hero of the song cycle and yet he is stoically going on, challenging nature, challenging fate, persisting in spite of it all. This vision gives me great courage in my life. 'Asylum Piece' offers no insight - it just catalogues misfortune and injustice.
I finished your book about madness, about inner poverty, about redemption and the mystical obsession with death. There's a word to describe books such as these, but I fail to remember that word. Oh well, my review is nothing more than a large applause sign. Did you live this, or are you dreaming it all? I suppose that doesn't matter. I'm writing to say, thank you. Ms. Kavan, I understand.