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Goldsmiths - University of London

'Keeping the Ruins Private: Anna Kavan and Heroin Addiction'

Sweeney, Carole. 2017. 'Keeping the Ruins Private: Anna Kavan and Heroin Addiction'. Women: A Cultural Review, 28(4), pp. 312-326. ISSN 0957-4042 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

In 1964 the number of registered heroin addicts in Britain was 753. One of these was Anna Kavan, née Helen Woods. Beginning her writing career under the name Helen Ferguson, she wrote conventionally realist novels that enjoyed modest commercial success. In 1939-40, after a number of serious breakdowns and suicide attempts, and now calling herself Anna Kavan, Woods/Ferguson left a Swiss sanatorium, addicted to heroin that had almost certainly been therapeutically prescribed for sleeping disorders and severe depression. From then until her death in 1968, when she was found collapsed over a box of drugs, Kavan had an intermittent relationship with heroin. This essay examines the ways in which Kavan has been constructed as an ‘addict writer’, both by her biographers and critics, and how such a figuration has influenced critical readings of her work.

Mid-century British women’s writing; Anna Kavan; Julia and the Bazooka; history of opium; heroin addiction.

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Identification Number (DOI):


mid-century British women’s writing, Anna Kavan, Julia and the Bazooka, history of opium, heroin addiction

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature > Centre for Caribbean Studies


12 December 2016Accepted
20 November 2017Published Online

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Date Deposited:

13 Dec 2016 14:30

Last Modified:

13 Jun 2018 01:26

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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