Book Launch: Afterburn: War Stories (2023) by Dr Stephen Symons

Posted on June 15, 2023

War and armed conflict has cost hundreds of millions of lives since the first civilisations. In his latest publication, Afterburn: War Stories (2023), Dr Stephen Symons confronts this subject of conflict through a grassroots approach without romanticising the horrific act of war. By portraying combat through the eyes of the ordinary people who participate in it, Dr Symons provides a human perspective of this theme in this collection.

Afterburn, which is published by Tattoo Press, is a pocket collection of four short stories that are related to war and armed conflict. The collection begins with an introduction followed by written by four short stories titled: ‘The River’, ‘My Cuban’, ‘Red Dust’ and ‘The Writing Class’. All but ‘The River’ have appeared in other published short story collections including Trade Secrets: Tales with a Twist (2017), Incredible Journey: Stories that Move You (2015) and The Ghost-Eater and Other Stories (2013).

Afterburn explores this theme of armed human conflict within three different contexts, the South African Border War (1966 - 1989), the Russo-Ukrainian War (2014 - present) and a theoretical scenario which is set in the imminent future. Through these three scenarios, Symons reflects on the horrors of war, by analysing situations in the past, the present and the future. Afterburn provokes the question of how we, as global citizens, respond to conflict. Like many South Africans, Dr Symons has been touched by the horrors of war, he was conscripted into the South African Defence Force during the apartheid era. Members of his family also fought in both World Wars and Dr Symons believes that expressing his experiences as well as the experiences of others, from a humanistic perspective is critical, regardless of which side of history the fall. Afterburn explores the experiences of men, women and children who have been caught in the storm of conflict, whether they are perpetrators or victims. Through this collection, Dr Symons hopes to provide some human insights into this relevant and important theme.

The book was launched in May 2023 at Wordsworth Books in Cape Town. Dr Symons is an alumnus of the University of Pretoria and graduated in 2019 with a Doctor of Philosophy in History from the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies. He also holds a Masters degree in Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town. Dr Symons’s short stories and poetry have been published both locally and internationally. He was shortlisted for the American Hudson Prize for Poetry in 2015, the Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry in 2017 and the Ingrid Jonker Prize for Poetry in 2018. Afterburn is yet another one of Dr Symon’s artistic achievements, which explores the various facets of the human experience.





- Author Robyn Schnell

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