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Jan Kott's Still Alive

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 August 2014


The trajectory of most books is from the eye to the brain and then out of some imperceptible pee hole at the back of the head. Only occasionally does something that you read enter the bloodstream and become a permanent part of your metabolism. Those are books that become so permanently lodged in the mental archives that they remain on instant recall for the rest of your life. Jan Kott's Still Alive (Yale University Press, 1994) is that kind of book for me.

I read it, savouringly, over four or five days, and when I'd finished found scenes and situations recurring in my dreams. An analyst would be able to provide some astute reason why that was so. He would probably prove that it connected up with personal psychic preoccupations triggered by the depicted events, but a critic would have a simpler explanation. He would point out that being vivid, subtle, graphic, and profound, the book fleshed out what was already known in general terms, but here achieved a specificity that made it ineradicably memorable.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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