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A Taste of Bitter Almonds: Perdition and Promise in South Africa

Michael Schmidt
A Taste of Bitter Almonds: Perdition and Promise in South Africa
ISBN: 978-1-928246-06-0
$25.00
2015/278 pages
Distributed for Best Red, an imprint of HSRC Press
"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, 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 toward its equivocal future. Schmidt, using a motley cast of characters, paints the country’s rainbow shades of grey ... yet the Technicolor remains." —Darren Taylor, features correspondent, Voice of America

DESCRIPTION

The year 1994 symbolized the triumphal defeat in South Africa of almost three-and-a-half centuries of racial separation—dating from 1659, the year the Dutch East India Company planted a bitter almond hedge to keep indigenous people out of the company's Cape outpost. But, Michael Schmidt reminds us, for the majority of people in what remains one of the world’s most unequal societies, the taste of bitter almonds lingers and exclusion from a dignified life remain the rule.

Schmidt weaves an engrossing tapestry of the "view from below." His cast of characters include 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. Digging deep to find the roots of South Africa's exclusionary practices, he also features a new generation of young people who, though their feet might be mired in the mud, have their eyes on the stars.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Schmidt is a veteran investigative journalist with a reputation for producing unique and challenging copy. He is founder of the Professional Journalists' Association of South Africa.

CONTENTS

  • PROLOGUE: DEGREES OF SEPARATION.
  • The Bitter Almond Hedge.
  • Traversing the Periphery.
  • INSUFFICIENT INFERNO: PERPETUAL APARTEHEID?
  • Death and the Mielieboer.
  • Of Tribes and Turf.
  • No-Man's-Land.
  • Of Fear and Faith.
  • THE GARDENER'S DIAMOND: POVERTY AND RACE.
  • Cold Stone Jug.
  • Hewers of Wood and Drawers of Water.
  • BURYING THE UMBILICAL CORD: LAND AND IDENTITY.
  • On the Red Dunes.
  • A Dead Apricot Tree.
  • The Kite-Maker's Dream.
  • THE BULL-ROARER'S DRONE.
  • A Children's Martyrology.
  • Gender Benders.
  • THE RAINBOW IN BLOOD AND MYTH.
  • Collective Bargaining by Riot.
  • Red in Tooth and Claw?
  • The Cult of the Sacred Zombie.
  • EPILOGUE: OF SOIL AND STARS.
     
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