On Writing Unspeakable Things

On Writing Unspeakable Things


On Writing Unspeakable Things

While living and teaching in Paris for the last twenty-five years, I had many encounters with unusual people, tortured by their memories of former lives and by their twisted experiences as refugees. Their living histories were told to me in smoky cafes, in bleak Parisian afternoons, on autumn streets, and in bed. As I immersed myself in their pasts, long-hidden memories of my own childhood in a family of refugees surfaced. Secret stories, people I had known, moments of suffering and awareness began to come back to me. I lived once more in the sado-erotic milieu of World War II intellectual refugees in New York.

I remembered, as a child, sharing my bed with Malka, a White Russian Countess who lived with us. Every night as I went to sleep, she would seed my dreams with tales of her sexual awakenings and the perverted ordeals she endured at the hands of a famous monk, during the time of the Czar. I remembered my grandfather, a prominent Freemason from Austria, holding court among the refugees who pleaded for favors in the darkened corners of the New York Public Library.

I remembered the German dwarf pediatrician and his desires for children and for their mothers who sold themselves to him. I remembered the unspeakable things that were never said, the whispers in the night, codes that were never broken, letters that were not received. And I remembered the overwhelming beauty of music that transcended our suffering and transported us to a New World we could not find.

I wrote a novel. I wrote it through lovers, I wrote it through my students, I wrote it in my solitude during the strikes that ripped across France. What emerged is a collage of history, magical-realism, sexual surrender, and the struggles and beauty of the people I loved.

Some may say that this book is too erotic, too strange, too surrealistic, or simply too outrageous. However, I do believe that the stories speak for themselves and should be told.

Thank you for reading Unspeakable Things.


Unspeakable Things Roger Brunyate

“UNSPEAKABLE THINGS is more accurately described as a refugee novel, being set in New York City in about 1940; the closest we get to the camps is the departure of a single character from Vienna in a sealed boxcar. But without the Holocaust, none of the characters would have had to flee to New York and live whole families to a single room in cold water flats. No matter how bizarre, how perverse Spivack’s action becomes, you know that even more unimaginable things are going on in Auschwitz, Maidanek, and the laboratories of Dr. Mengele. This is the Holocaust reflected in a fun-house mirror, but — unlike the situation in Europe — ultimately offering the hope of emerging from the madhouse and making your garden grow.

Spivack’s writing is superb, ranging from poetic descriptions of New York to the pornographic excesses of Rasputin’s assault on the hunchbacked Countess.”

–       Roger Brunyate