Alex Pheby’s Playthings is a visceral and darkly comic portrait of severe mental illness based on the true story of nineteenth-century German judge and patient of Freud, Daniel Paul Schreber. While deftly exploring the ideas of madness and sanity, of reality and delusion, Pheby reflects Schreber’s disordered mind in vertiginous prose, and compassionately reveals the humanity and tragedy of his psychosis.
Praise for Playthings
“If Playthings is a neuronovel then it’s arguably the best neuronovel ever written, particularly in its depiction of memory and the instability of personality. But it transcends any such category and is simply a superb novel tout court, Kafkaesque in its nightmarish fluency and a powerful exposition of Kant’s celebrated view that ‘the madman is a waking dreamer.’” —Literary Review
“Bold… immersive… compassionate… [In Playthings], we are made to see a logic to Schreber’s psychosis and an illogicality and madness in the actions of the doctors and people around him… It is this humanizing aspect of the novel which is most valuable; we are reminded of the immense tragedy of his experiences of illness, experiences that are too often removed from the context of life.” —The Times Literary Supplement