Powerful and provocative, brilliantly written, “The Unspeakable” is as unforgettable as it is unsettling.
It is the mid-1980s, the era of so-called reformist apartheid, and South Africa is in flames. Police and military are gunning down children at the forefront of the struggle.
Far from such action, it seems, a small party of four is traveling by minibus to the north of the country, close to the border with Zimbabwe.
Their aim is to shoot a documentary on the discovery of a prehistoric skull that Professor Digby Bamford boasts is evidence that “True man first arose in southern Africa”.
Boozy, self-absorbed Professor Bamford is unaware that his young lover, Vicky, brings with her some complications. Rian, the videographer, was once in love with her, and his passion has been re-ignited. Bucs, a young man from the townships, is doing his best not to be involved in the increasingly deadly tensions.
Told in the first person by Rian, it centres on the conflicted being of the white male under apartheid. Unlike many of the great novels of the era, it renounces any claim to the relative safety zone of moralist dissociation from the racist crime against humanity, and cuts instead to the quick of complicity.
It is sometimes said of Albert Camus’s “The Stranger” (in Britain, “The Outsider”) that everything would have turned out very differently, had the murder only taken place “a few hundred miles to the south”. This is that South with a vengeance.
Peter Anderson hails from South Africa, but currently resides in North Texas where he is an associate professor of English at Austin College. The author of a previous collection of poems, Vanishing Ground, his work in fiction and poetry has appeared in numerous literary magazines and has been anthologized in both America and South Africa. The Unspeakable is his first novel.
The Unspeakable is being published on September 21st 2014 by CR Press
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Peter Anderson is also available for interview and guest blogging.
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