Campbell, Joanna – Instructions for the Working Day

In Instructions for the Working Day by Joanna Campbell (Fairlight Books, 2022), Neil Fischer has inherited his father’s former hometown of Marschwald in East Germany. He drives there from England, remembering stories about his father’s brutal behavior, the split from his mother and sister, and the loneliness he experienced throughout his childhood. He picks up a chatty hitchhiker who helps him get through part of the journey. An inability to understand people, especially his father, has always plagued Neil, but now he faces the task of deciphering his demanding father’s last wish and restoring the derelict village to its former glory. He plans to renovate and revive Marschwald, but is met with hostility, mistrust and underlying menace by nearly all the old people in the town. His only friend in Marschwald is Silke, who is coming to terms with her traumatic experiences during the Cold War and has recently uncovered a shocking truth, concealed from her for years by her controlling brother. As tensions rise, a series of surreal encounters force Neil to contend with his own troubled past – but right now, all signs point to danger.

Joanna Campbell lives in Gloucestershire, England. She studied German at university and as a student spent a year living in West Germany. Joanna has worked as a teacher of both German and English, and now writes full-time. She is very interested in the Cold War − particularly the communist state of East Germany − partly as a result of studying the era for her university course and also from living with West Germans devastated by the division of their country and separated from their loved ones. She loves to write about the themes of separation and isolation as a result of this interest. She is learning to paint and most of her efforts involve abstract cityscapes reminiscent of battle-scarred Berlin. Her debut novel Tying Down the Lion was published in 2015, and her short story collection When Planets Slip Their Tracks (2016) was shortlisted for the Edge Hill Prize. Her novella Sybilla won the 2021 National Flash Fiction Day Novella-in-Flash Award. Her short fiction has been published in many anthologies and literary magazines and has won several awards including the London Short Story Prize.