David Rose (whose two lovely stories ‘Eleanor: The End Notes’ and ‘Terra Cotta’ appear in UNTHOLOGY NO.3) has written a piece on Unthank Books for NECESSARY FICTION (as part of a survey of the UK independent publishing scene that also includes features on Salt, Two Ravens and Honest Publishing).
THE SYLLABUS OF ERRORS gets a nice early mention:
“This week sees the publication of its latest title, Ashley Stokes’ The Syllabus Of Errors, a series of linked stories set in between-the-wars Europe – think of Roth, Zweig, Brecht/Weill, ‘Cabaret’ – but refracted through the present and recent past. I should declare an interest here: I read the book in manuscript last year, and wrote a short blurb and a longer essay for the Unthank website. I was honestly hugely impressed by it then, and I’m looking forward to reading it again now in print. It plays strongly to my interest in that period, and loses nothing by comparison with Roth, Isherwood or the Manns, while gaining in contemporary interest. It reminded me too of Roberto Bolano, specifically Nazi Literature In The Americas – it could have been titled Nazi Literature In Carshalton, maybe. It has a similar texture to Bolano, an intricacy and detail, a heft, establishing its fictional universe very robustly by its specificity. For example, a story set in pre-Fascist Rome revolves around a mural artist so strongly drawn I thought he might have been based on the real propaganda artist Mario Sironi, but is in fact wholly fictitious. But it is the detailed evocation of the period that impresses.
Similarly with a story ser in Weimar Berlin, ‘The Prettiest Girl In Berlin’. the mood of the time is so strongly conveyed – not so much decadence as defeat, despair, the streets controlled by right wing gangs of ex-soldiers, the ‘Freikorps’, and Communist Spartacists – that the story, an ex-soldier close to death searching for a lover who may already be dead, takes on the nightmarish Expressionist quality of a George Grosz painting coming to life.
These are immensely impressive achievements, with too many other examples to list – you just need to read it for yourselves. Appropriately there is the possibility of a translation into German in the offing, and an interview for Canadian radio is promised for the near future. All of which should help to significantly raise the profile of Unthank, and direct attention onto their earler books at the same time.”