A Taste of Bitter Almonds

Perdition and Promise in South Africa

Publication Info:

AuthorMichael Schmidt
PublisherBestRed, Cape Town, South Africa
Year Of Publication2020

About A Taste of Bitter Almonds

The book is a best-seller that was long-listed for the Academy of Science of South Africa’s 2016 Humanities Book Award.

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 for the majority of people in the world’s most unequal society, the taste of bitter almonds linger as their exclusion from a dignified life remain the rule.
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

“Journalism is supposed to speak truth to power, which Schmidt does fearlessly (and sometimes personally) in this collection of stories gathered over his long career. A compendium of forgotten histories across all cultures and creeds, as well as a look at some of the stories that threatened to tear South Africa apart, this is a fascinating, if difficult, look at our shared and complex history.” – Zoe Hinis, Sunday Times