Ice is a novel by Anna Kavan.

It begins with the protagonist going to visit a woman who once was important in his life, though it is not clear to what extent, and the man she now lives with. He remarks upon her fragility and is alarmed by the man's callousness. Suddenly, this very mundane scenario is altered: glaciers begin appearing, only to disappear again. The setting suddenly changes as well: it is now a country at war, and the protagonist is attempting to escape and find the woman. He finds a boat, and takes it to a northern country, where he pretends to be an archeologist--in reality, he is still trying to find her. She is being held, he finds, by the local warlord, who will not give her up, being aware of this connection between them. He almost has her within his grasp, but the warlord (obviously the man who appeared in the first part of the book) takes her away.

In this way, the protagonist hunts the woman through a variety of settings, much like a literary game of Super Mario Brothers. With glaciers intruding at occasional moments. Each time, she is taken away. Gradually it becomes obvious that the woman does not want to be caught--that he is forcing himself upon her, imagining in her a fragility and a need for protection that she does not possess--it is not the other man who is the enemy, it is herself.

This novel is a detournement of the classic myth of a Grail quest, where the strong hero and his phallic lance undertake a conquest of the yonic Grail. Kavan's book gives the Grail a voice--turning it from passive reward to antagonist. As such, it is a wonderfully feminist and thought-provoking piece of work, written in a lucid, metaphor-drenched style.

I highly recommend this novel--and its cousin, Italo Calvino's short story "Glaciation."