First published sixty years ago, Asylum Piece today ranks as one of the most extraordinary and terrifying evocations of human madness ever written. This collection of stories, mostly interlinked and largely autobiographical, chart the descent of the narrator from the onset of neurosis to final incarceration at a Swiss clinic. The sense of paranoia, of persecution by a foe or force that is never given a name evokes The Trial by Franz Kafka, the writer with whom Kavan is most often compared, though Kavan's deeply personal, restrained and almost foreignaccented style has no true model. The same characters who recur throughout the protagonist's unhelpful 'advisor', the friend/lover who abandons her at the clinic, and an assortment of deluded companions are sketched without a trace of the rage, selfpity or sentiment that have marked more recent prozac memoirs.
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