Anna Kavan was born in 1901, the only child of a wealthy British family. She began publishing under her married name, Helen Ferguson. During this time, she was introduced to heroin by her tennis coach in order to improve her game. She suffered a breakdown after the end of her second marriage, and was committed to an institution to treat both her depression and her addiction. She published her two best-known novels after this experience, Asylum Piece and Ice, under 'Anna Kavan', the name of a character in an earlier novel. She died of heart failure at her home in London in 1968.
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