Although it is famous that Anna Kavan was strongly inspired by Kafka, the fact that her works are classified into SF is surprised. I didn’t regard it as such at all while reading it, if it were a result of an apocalyptic aspect of the story, the classification couldn’t show the importance of the novel. It means that it is composed of the several complicated motifs.
This is the story that a man adheres to and chases a girl as much as he can. The fact that the world enters into the glacial period caused by melting ice in the polar region, and that a girl physically and mentally abused (by a lot of people and things, in fact), are associated, as she seems to be a clue to the destruction of the world. As a consequence, Kavan’s attempts might be said successful. Her description of the glacial landscape is elaborate in addition to the richly drawn people in the story who can be seen as composite ones like “I” or the girl (no one has his name in the novel).
As association with the girl and ice suggests, she is fragile and frail, but it is just the image given by “I.” In his imagination (impossible to affirm), she is battered or died many times. As we know when he is called a mental patient, it is ambiguous whether the reality in which he lives is real or not. If all is his illusion, her existence is also his imaginative image, which means that her real figure (if it could be existed) comes to be far from our sense. She is a mirror to reflect his arbitrary figure which might be created by the girl created by himself, that is, his ideal figure, the man having the power to conquer.
His emotion towards her has a sense of violence since he feels her sexual attraction when seeing her abused, or imagines she, inflicted cruelly, is dead. Actually he extraordinarily respects the warden who “owns” and has the power over the girl. On the other hand, she keeps on rejecting “I” as if she rejected a violent dominance. With the movement of her emotion broken by the power, an invasion of ice progresses to quicken the destruction of the world.
Our understanding of the story becomes profound as we identify the theme as violence. Information manipulation, a war, relationship, all of them are developed on the basis of the power. It looks irony that she is the fragile existence, and she represents so many things that the story gains its diversity. But the surprised fact exposed by her at the end might show a fear which an invisible power has.