‘Hell’ by Paul Kavanagh

Many years ago in a bookshop in Twickenham I was shown a small display of titles by a then-local press. Wanting to support them, I bought the only fiction title, a novel called The Killing of a Bank Manager by Paul Kavanagh, of whom I’d never heard. It proved a hair-raising read: relentlessly slapdash, inventively and wittily anti-stylish, the literary equivalent of Art Brut, Henry Darger in text, a cult novel in the making.

I found out more from the publisher’s website, wrote a review on it, and later wrote at their request an introduction to his second novel, Iceberg. I have followed his work as best I could in its sporadic publication in magazines – I even subscribed to Gorse initially for that reason. So I was delighted to come across ‘Hell’ in Exacting Clam.

‘Hell’ and Hell, however, is not so much a story, more a narrative spew, the fervid antithesis of Beckett’s glacial theses, an animated inferno out of Hieronymus Bosch. There is no way to describe it; I can only quote a few slivers and stand well back:

“I leave the house and there they are lingering apple dappled Eve & Adam blood drenched Heloise & Abelard tommygun peppered Clyde & Bonnie. Recto she lissom short sitting on the wall. Verso he hirsute and burly married to the wall… Dante whispering Virgil pointing. Should I wave. Do not provoke them. I provoke them. It’s going to be a lovely day he threatens. A hot day she condemns… Hell is other people somebody said Kafka Camus Beckett me. I continue. They continue. We continue… I admit it it’s true I… created them gave birth to them but how I did it is another tale all together and as you know or don’t know a tale is made up with a myriad of other tales.”

And now, with a narrative fuse blown, I can only sign off.

Published in Exacting Clam, N° 3, Winter 2021