By Alex Pheby

Mental health, History, Psychology


Published by Galley Beggar Press

Shortlist 2016
Playthings by Alex Phelby

‘Playthings’, Alex Pheby’s second novel, provides a compelling and original take on one of the most influential psychological case studies in early-20th-century history: the mind of Daniel Paul Schreber.

Daniel Paul Schreber was a judge who lived in Dresden – and in later life wrote ‘Memoirs of My Nervous Illness’, an autobiographical account of his battle with mental illness. This extraordinary book, based on Schreber’s first two confinements in an asylum, became a foundation stone in the psychological history of the 20th century.

What Schreber was not able to write about was the final part of his story: his third episode of delusion and paranoia and subsequent incarceration, from which he did not return. ‘Playthings’ provides this dark final chapter. Along the way, it plunges deep not just into the mind of Schreber, but also into the society in which he struggled to live – because his rigid upbringing, and subsequent breakdowns, is the story not just of one man, but of Germany as whole.

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