Written and Narrated by Peter Anderson
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 liberation 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 is evidence that, Professor Digby Bamford boasts, "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 reignited. Bucs, a young man from the townships, is doing his best not to be involved in the increasingly deadly tensions.
Powerful, provocative, and brilliantly crafted, The Unspeakable is as unforgettable as it is unsettling. Told in the first person by Rian, it centers 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 moralistic dissociation from the racist crime against humanity, and cuts instead to the quick of complicity.
It is sometimes said of Albert Camus' The Stranger 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.