Wednesday 7 October 2015

A Taste of Bitter Almonds: draft back cover blurbs

When Nelson Mandela took the oath as South Africa’s first democratically-elected president in 1994, it symbolised the triumphal defeat of almost three and a half centuries of racial separation since the original corporate raiders of the Dutch East India Company planted a bitter almond hedge to keep indigenous people out of ‘their’ Cape outpost in 1659. The Mandela moment had deep global resonance and for a few years thereafter the ‘Rainbow Nation’ was the world’s darling – but in the world’s most unequal society, for the majority of its people, being excluded from a dignified life remained the rule over 1994 to 2015, and a taste of bitter almonds remained. In the year of South Africa’s troubled coming-of-age, veteran investigative journalist and anarchist activist Michael Schmidt brings to bear 21 years of his scribbled field notes to weave a tapestry of the view from below: here in the demi-monde of our transition from autocracy to democracy, in the half-light glow of the rusted rainbow, you will meet neo-Nazis and the newly dispossessed, Boers and Bushmen, black illegal coal miners and a bank robber, witches and wastrels, love children and land claimants. Yet, with their feet in the mud, still our Born Free youth have their eyes on the stars.

Michael Schmidt will challenge you in this book. He will enlighten you too. You will want to embrace him for going so far out on a limb with his truths. You will also want to punch him in the face for some of those revelations, and draw blood. There is, however, one thing you will never do. You will never say of this man: ‘Michael Schmidt never was any good as a writer.’ He gripped my attention… and never let it go. – Eric Miyeni, author of O, Mandingo! The Only Black at a Dinner Party

A raucous, rollicking yet lucid ride into South Africa's often violent, absurd and hilarious past, racing into its schizophrenic, disoriented present and pointing towards its equivocal future. Schmidt, using a motley cast of characters, paints the country's rainbow in shades of grey... yet
the Technicolor remains. – Darren Taylor, Voice of America (VOA) Africa features correspondent

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