top of page
Pictures 2-2-04 042.jpg

The Errors of Mankind

Indies Today

The Errors of Mankind by Curt A. Canfield

★★★★☆/ BY  R.C. GIBSON / DECEMBER 4, 2023

When studying the modern history of our world, it is impossible to exclude war from the curriculum. Stemming from religious and political divisions to run-of-the-mill selfishness, war has been a driving force behind almost every land and nation. Military veteran Will knows this firsthand. A Marine who served in Vietnam, Will struggles to accept the things he’s seen and done in the name of service to his country. A personal project researching the branches of his family tree leads Will to Johann, a 91-year-old veteran who devoted some of his best years to World War II. On paper, it seems like these two seasoned men share more than just lineage, including common experiences and consequences that only a soldier could understand. But Johann fought for Germany under Hitler as a proud member of the SS. Instead of dismissing this elderly man as an enemy, though, Will takes time to hear history he is already well versed in, but from a remarkably different frame of reference. The discussions at Johann’s assisted care facility are tense at first, with each man fully invested in his own perspective. But honest conversations give way to genuine empathy and enlightenment. Will often has the thought, “I never heard it put that way before.” Both men reluctantly reckon with their pasts as they look ahead to the future. 

There are at least two sides to every conflict, though this reality is often forgotten with the passage of time and the influence of genetics, geography, or politics. In Curt A. Canfield’s The Errors of Mankind: Mistaking the True Conditions for our Well-Being, a fresh perspective is presented on communal ideologies, potent biases, and the shared human experience. With a rewarding lesson on how to overcome inclinations that threaten unity, Will and Johann prove that age, ethnicity, and our pasts don’t have to divide us. Copious amounts of dry history fill in the gaps between visits with Johann, sometimes slowing the pace of the narrative to a labored crawl. But the novel really shines in its elevated conversations, offering a chance to see what reasonableness looks like when emotion and expectations are pushed aside. It is especially enlightening to consider the mood behind the scenes of each military conflict, one side joining with the promise of being able to see the world or learn responsibility, the other serving to save culture and community. When read with an open mind and a receptive heart, The Errors of Mankind can expand our viewpoint and lead us to examine the way we empathize with others.  (bolding by author)

Booklife

Title: The Errors of Mankind; Mistaking the True Conditions for Our Well Being

Author: CURT CANFIELD

Genre: Fiction/General Fiction (including literary and historical)

Plot/Idea: This promising plot revolves around conversations between a Vietnam veteran, a World War II German veteran, and an Auschwitz survivor, exploring humankind's culpability for evil acts. An allegory about human nature, the book starts off strong, but Canfield's overuse of supporting quotes from external sources distracts in the end.

Prose: When Canfield focuses on characters, the prose flows smoothly and allows for deeper insights—especially regarding the protagonist Will. However, the heavy use of quotations from other sources gives the novel more of a textbook feel.

Originality: The novel shows great promise, and using three distinctive characters, each possessing divergent perspectives and life experiences, is a gripping concept.

Character/Execution: Canfield mimics the trauma aftereffects of war in the novel's partial access to its characters, particularly with Will; readers are allowed unpredictable glimpses into his struggles following his return from Vietnam—and only intermittent exposure to the darkness lurking inside of him. Johann is less relatable, but Lena is a riveting character: an Auschwitz survivor caught between righteous anger while desperately wanting to be at peace, she is a definite standout.

Score:

  • Plot/Idea: 8

  • Originality: 8

  • Prose: 7

  • Character/Execution: 7

  • Overall: 7.50

Report Submitted: September 11, 2023

Online Book Club

Review of The Errors of Mankind

by Sofia Monteiro » 21 Oct 2023, 4 out of 5 stars


"The Errors of Mankind" is a fictional book about war, history, and philosophy. The story is narrated in first person by the main character, Will, a U.S. Marine veteran, an English and History major, and a now-retired consultant.

The story begins with his interest in researching the origins of his maternal family, which he knew had long come from Germany. Searching for people related to this branch of his family, he found Johann, a 91-year-old resident of an Assisted Living Facility. The main plot of the book starts after Will decides to talk to the man and learns that he is a German veteran of World War II.

Initially, Will wanted to hear from Johann about the family's history. However, as the conversations delved into the topic of war, Will began to question his previous knowledge and relate to the older man's experiences. This, of course, was something he was reluctant to admit. Johann being a former SS soldier was appalling to Will. Yet, he couldn't shake off the feelings of empathy towards the older man, as both of them had started in the military at a young age. Will even empathized with Germany when confronted with unfamiliar Western behavior.

However, amid these discussions, we are introduced to a new central character, Lena, a survivor of Auschwitz and a peer of Johann in the facility. Lena comes in with a different point of view, as a victim of it all, to question the justifications put forward. She highlights the hypocrisy and the system of ideologies that gave rise to the violence and crimes of the war. We, as readers, are taken on a journey of self-discovery and questioning our worldview by Will as we explore politics, philosophy, and history.

Based on the author's bio, the story intertwines with his experiences and academic background as a war veteran and an English and History major, similar to Will's. This could be perceived in the philosophical discussions on war and history's depth. The historical facts addressed were interesting and mostly new to me: the analysis of the different concentration camps and human experiments was mind-blowing. Besides, the presence of references at the end was reassuring.

The story pacing bothered me a little, as it was a long book, and some of the information was repetitive, making me drag my feet at some points. However, it wasn't a big problem as we were given breaks due to the issues in Will’s personal life. I will have to complain about the cover, though. The style was simple, which is not a problem in itself, but it didn't match the professional and profound vibe of the book, besides not appealing to the reader.

Overall, I liked that while Johann and Lena are characters connected to World War II, the book does not confine itself to a single series of events, digging into facts from the Spanish Civil War to the more recent U.S. interventions in the Middle East. Also, while the characters may be fictional, their opinions, ideas, references, and experiences are not. That makes the book even more essential, especially in times when old conflicts resurface. Besides, the quotations from actual speeches — such as Muhammad Ali's and Smedley Butler's — and documents only further approximate the story and reality. Considering all that I have mentioned, despite the criticism, this was an awesome read, definitely recommendable, and a 4 out of 5 stars book. (bolding by author)

Goodreads

5 Star Rating by Katherine Rose

“Engaging, motivating, and heartbreaking, I found The Errors of Mankind to hit on all these fronts. Looking at Germany and the United States both has perhaps never been done in this manner before. I have had a very good reflective read and I urge avid readers to do the same with this book. Through the different characters, the author has evaluated how the Germans thought about the atrocities that occurred during the Second World War. In addition, the conflicting situation between the Nazis and Jews is quite intricately shown through dialogues. A wonderful addition to any social library.”

5 Star Rating by Mike Pavelka “I don’t know how Curt has pulled it off! In a seemingly motivational story about a wartorn person, he has described how nations fail to deal with situations the right way. We have been doing it wrongly for some time now. Great book for anyone looking to learn war history through a different lens!” 

 

5 Star Rating by Michelle Suarez

“The Errors of Mankind is an outstanding book for understanding how governments work. We can only improve if the future if we look at our past mistakes. Take the example of Germany and Vietnam, the story presents ideas that we must all look at. I enjoyed reading it as it greatly intrigued me. A great book for the serious history reader!”

5 Star Rating by Harry Andrew
Curt has prepared an intriguing book, overlooking the common mistakes that we all make as human beings. From holocaust to starting new wars, mankind has not been kind to itself. The Errors of Mankind presents this point wonderfully well. Any reader who wants to really learn the German perspective of the Second World War should read this book. An excellent choice!

Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Psychotherapist

“Your book … has been truly a captivating read …  I found the book to be exceptionally courageous and learned many fascinating insights and facts … The characters are intriguing, and I was eager to discover how the plot developed and unfolded between Will, Johann, and Lena … Will’s conversations with Johann are at times very difficult to digest … I wonder how many people are truly ready to unravel the painful and uncomfortable truth, the overall message of redemption is something every person from every nation needs to hear.

“As a therapist treating PTSD, I found Will's depiction of battling the beast to be highly accurate in how the condition manifests itself. In my experience, I've worked with several clients who are children of veterans suffering from complex trauma rooted in generational trauma, much like Will and his father.  Will’s experience alone with the deer was traumatic, never mind the trauma of being raised with such an unempathetic father, with his own war trauma, and then going on to experience war firsthand.  Layers and layers!

 

“A number of years ago I learned about the bombing of Dresden and the thousands of German women and children (mostly refugees from the East) who were killed.  I was horrified and shared this with an American friend who responded with very little empathy and said ‘well, the Germans got what they deserved.’  I was flabbergasted that this is still the response of Americans today, and how such thinking has been so deeply ingrained. 

 

“From my visits to Poland as well as hours of research, I learned that the war is still very much alive for many people and is still a sensitive topic … I have learned that it is really difficult to awaken people from the illusion of what we have been taught. Nonetheless, you have done a marvelous job of cleverly and engagingly presenting the truth in such a touching story, one that just might engage those not otherwise open or interested in digging into and researching such subjects.  My prayer and hope would be that numerous people would read your book and … open their minds (and hearts) to the truth about how the world is genuinely managed, but most of all, to the truth about the deep love and redemption that is available to every human.” 

Beta-Readers

Beth Dwoskin, Researcher in Ashkenazic Women, Master's Degree in Jewish Studies from the University of Michigan:

“There is no paradigmatic Holocaust survivor but in the character of Lena, Curt Canfield has drawn a believable portrait of one who was an educated Polish Jew, survived Auschwitz, and came to America to rebuild her life. As a woman who spent most of her life in America and had an American education and career, her speech patterns and cultural references resemble the middle-class Americans she lived and worked with. But, like most survivors, her memories of the destruction of her own family and the extermination of Europe's Jews are a source of endless pain and anger.”

 

Professor Emeritus George Diamond of Moravian University's English Department:

"Terrific!! The narrative really grabs you and won't let go ... The mystery of your two opening characters is very strong. The reader is anxious to discover who they actually are and why destiny has brought them together at this time and place, and where it will take them from here.

 

“For me, your use of setting, dialogue, and character development were very strong. I trust you will be able to sustain the quality of narrative through what appears to be a long novel ... I think you have something going here that has strong potential ..."

 

Gerd Schultze-Rhonhof, retired Generalmajor of the German Army (Bundeswehr) and author of 1939: The War that Had Many Fathers:

“... you have described the reality of German thinking … between 1914 and 1948 … it was unknown to me that the conduct of cases in Nuremberg did not comply with the US American technical rules of evidence and did not need a chain of custody for each piece of evidence. To my previous knowledge the tribunal did only not comply with German case law and legal practice and code of procedure. I have never heard or read anything about this lack according to US American laws and rules in the German literature. This seems to be unknown in Germany.

“As a summary .. your manuscript promises that the book will be very worth reading and an eye opener for American and British people who are not captured by preconceptions.”

Monthly Novel Writing Festival in Los Angeles :

"The truth behind Johann's story is shocking, informative, and completely unexpected … you have managed to firmly put the readers in Willi's shoes and satisfied their faith in his ability as a storyteller. It is easy to hear ‘the bitterness in (his) voice’ when he recalls the alienation of his government in Vietnam. The reader's interest is pushed further when it becomes apparent that this once-in-a-lifetime encounter is actually a therapy session. It was also wise to establish this unexpectedly revelatory union between them before going into the details behind Willi's story.

 

“By now, the reader has a foundation and is gaining interest as Will's self-discovery and development takes flight.

“Judging by the title  … this book is going to be structured as a journey of self-discovery and reflection .... Once Will is seated across from Johann, the story takes off like a Lockheed Martin. The plot becomes focused, and the reader has a sense of interior conflict travelling in the same direction as Will's mission to discover his past ..."

Jay Greenwood, author of Race to Marathon: 

"Curt Canfield … presents an intriguing convergence of perspectives on history and war. The two key protagonists are Johann, a German veteran of WWII, and Will, a Vietnam War veteran. Their recurring conversations explore the backgrounds of their respective wars.

 

Some of their descriptions will provide solid introductions for non-historian readers, and other explanations reveal arcane aspects of the two wars that are largely unknown. In addition, the novel explores the protagonists’ personal interpretations that sometimes seem to overlap and merge and, at other times, seem to fly in opposite directions.

Another noteworthy aspect of the novel is the involvement of Lena, an Auschwitz survivor. Her views drill into the conversation resulting in a jaw-tightening effect on Will and, especially, Johann. And a final note that causes pause is the comparison of the treatment of Jews in Germany and African-Americans in America. The similarities and differences of these two profoundly significant and sad histories are well worth serious contemplation.”

Giles MacDonogh, author of After the Reich:

“I think [it] reads well from the moment that you take us to Johann … Johann is good. He could be plenty of old men of that generation who endeavoured to see some good in Hitler after the war.”

 

Margaret Duarte, Visionary Fiction author:

“I love the first sentence. It pulled me right in ... Very good. Very interesting ... My parents were young adults when German troops invaded their homeland, The Netherlands. They hated Hitler and his army for all the pain and suffering the Dutch were forced to endure. The Errors of Mankind, however, brings to light the suffering experienced by soldiers on both sides of the conflict, providing a much-needed understanding as to the hows and whys of war.”

 

Simon Fairfax, Author:

"I have just read chapters 1& 2 that you posted ... the opening chapter, which for some reason put me in mind of Death of a Salesman and I nearly gave up as thought it was going to evolve in a ....'deep meaningful literary fiction...' for which I have little taste or appetite at the moment. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised and enthralled at the conversation between the two protagonists in the nursing home and the continued juxtaposition of viewpoint relating to 'facts' that needed checking. In all. A very thought provoking and fascinating start."

*

*

*

*

bottom of page