A fiercely poetic literary debut re-creating the life of an 19th-century slave woman in South Africa.
Slavery as it existed in Africa has seldom been portrayedand never with such texture, detail, and authentic emotion. Inspired by actual 19th-century court records, Unconfessed is a breathtaking literary tour de force. They called her Sila van den Kaap, slave woman of Jacobus Stephanus Van der Wat of Plettenberg Bay, South Africa. A woman moved from master to master, farm to farm, anddriven by the horrors of slavery to commit an unspeakable crimefrom prison to prison. A woman fit for hanging . . . condemned to death on April 30, 1823, but whose sentence the English, having recently wrested authority from the Dutch settlers, saw fit to commute to a lengthy term on the notorious Robben Island.
Sila spends her days in the prison quarry, breaking stones for Cape Towns streets and walls. She remembers the day her childhood ended, when slave catchers came whipping the air and the ground and we were like deer whipped into the smaller and smaller circle of our fear. Sila remembers her masters, especially Oumiesies (old Missus), who in her will granted Sila her freedom, but Theron, Oumiesies vicious and mercenary son, destroys the will and with it Silas life. Sila remembers her children, with joy and with pain, and imagines herself a great bird that could sweep them up in her wings and set them safely on a branch above all harm. Unconfessed is an epic novel that connects the reader to the unimaginable through the force of poetry and a far-reaching imagination.
He stood just in the entrance of the cell, a tall man with his hat in his hands.
She could make out the cream of his necktie. She knew why he had come. She
waited and could see him struggle with irritation and uncertainty as she
remained seated on the bed. The smell had assailed his nostrils when he first
entered, but now he could smell the bed. She let it reach him and relished the
satisfaction of seeing his small step backwards.
She knew about him. The very famous new Superintendent about whom everyone talked. Once, when she was out in the yard, he had come clattering to visit the Warden. She had been invisible except as one of those people he had been so good at keeping obedient. He looked at her now as if she were a fool. She said nothing.
What is that stench? He did not ask this of her.
Sanitation issa problem, Excellency.
He turned abruptly to face the guard who remained invisible on the other side of the ...
Unconfessed is rambling, circular and sometimes confusing; but it's also a lyrical, powerful and important piece of writing. Depending on your viewpoint you may side with the reviewer for Kirkus who describes it as "a gorgeous, devastating song of freedom that will inevitably be compared to Toni Morrison's Beloved" or Entertainment Weekly who thinks it "plods along like Gertrude Stein with a head cold."
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (1494 words).
Yvette Christiansë was born in South Africa under apartheid and emigrated
with her family via Swaziland to Australia at the age of eighteen. She now
teaches African American literature and post colonial studies at Fordham
University. Unconfessed is her first novel, following a collection of
poetry, Castaway, published in 1999.
Modern Day Slavery - did you know?
According to the US State Department, slavery is now the third largest type of illegal trade in the world (after drugs and weapons); every year between 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across national borders with about 17,500 entering the USA. Many advocacy sources put the figures much higher, for example some say that about 1 million ...
If you liked Unconfessed, try these:
In Philida, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, André Brink"one of South Africa's greatest novelists" (The Telegraph)gives us his most powerful novel yet; the truly unforgettable story of a female slave, and her fierce determination to survive and to be free.
A powerful tragedy distilled into a jewel of a masterpiece by the Nobel Prizewinning author of Beloved and, almost like a prelude to that story, set two centuries earlier.
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