14th February 2013
The Syllabus of Errors Short Fiction
In a sequence of overlapping short stories, a cast of loners and romantics explore how our anxious present is mirrored in the uncertainties of the inter-war period with its crashes and crises. Ultimately it conveys a coded warning from history about what can come to fill the void when universally accepted notions of democracy and liberal capitalism are being questioned – just as they are now.
Ashley Stokes’ restless and rootless characters dream of idealised cities or moments in the historical or personal past which they feel could offer them escape. Historically – Sally Bowles and Fritz Lang’s “M” join hands in Weimar Berlin, a faceless soldier wanders through a war-torn city looking for his lost love, an artist high on modernism gets caught up in a political assassination in Fascist Italy. Personally – they dream of capturing that unfulfilled promise, that missed perfect kiss, that unresolved moment, that thing that should have lived. The stories accumulate until their origins are revealed in the notebook jottings of one harassed teenage boy growing up in a fantasy of the Third Reich in Surrey.
Lovers of Mitteleuropa period fiction, or of contemporary fiction or ideally both will love this book. It’s Jospeh Roth meets Roberto Bolano, and it is simply wonderful.
Eleanor Walpol, Sabotage
Overall The Syllabus of Errors is a tense, exciting and thought-provoking series of stories from the point of view of the alienated or underdog, encompassing humorous experiments in form such as ‘A Short Story about a Short Film’ and full of references to the return of the repressed and the major wars of the twentieth century – especially World War II and its Nazis, Fascists and Communists.