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A Favorite Book: Cry, The Beloved Country: Cry, The Beloved Country - a book by Alan Paton in pre-apartheid South Africa, expresses hope in tragedy
Posted by Douglas, Apr 13, 2008. 2197 views. ID = 1117

A Favorite Book: Cry, The Beloved Country

Posted by Douglas, Apr 13, 2008. 2197 views. ID = 1117
This post was written in 24 minutes.
This post has been awarded 23 stars by 5 readers.

During the years of Apartheid in South Africa, the phrase "black and white" was a phrase that had a far different meaning than it does for us. Apartheid (which means separateness in the Africaans language) was a legal system of racial segregation. Blacks were stripped of their citizenship, were treated as sub-human, and segregated in their homes, their work places, and even in their hospitals.

Just before the implementation of Apartheid as legal policy, a man named Alan Paton wrote a beautiful book titled Cry, The Beloved Country, which explored racial tension through the eyes of two men: a poor black priest named Stephen Kumalo and a wealthy neighboring farmer and landowner named James Jarvis.

The book is beautifully written, and in places reads more like poetry than prose. The book opens with a wonderful description of the landscape where the story takes place, and begins as follows: There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass-covered and rolling and they are lovely beyond any singing of it. The road climbs seven miles into them, to Carisbrooke; and from there, if there is no mist, you look down on one of the fairest valleys of Africa...

The two protragonists of the story are only vaguely acquainted, but they come to know each other under dire circumstances; the black priest's son Absolom moves to Johannesburg and, in an unlikely-but-believable twist, breaks into the home of Jarvis' son Arthur with intent to rob, but ends up shooting and killing the man.

The story is, in my experience, quite unique; I think of it as a "hopeful tragedy". Though the story has an ending which will make you cry, there is an underlying sense of Paton's hope that his homeland will turn around and become the place he envisions in his dreams and imagination.

Ironically, Cry, The Beloved Country was published in 1948, only a few months before the implementation of Apartheid. Other books written by Paton in later years are equally beautiful, but far less hopeful. Alan Paton's books are filled with simple but profound statements about man, God, racism, politics, and man's responsibility toward both God and his fellow man.

Copyright 2008 Douglas. All rights reserved. has been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work. For permission to reprint this item, please contact the author.

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This post has been awarded 23 stars by 5 readers.
This post is part of a writing prompt: My Favorite Books


Apr 13, 2008
I forgot to mention that there was a 1995 movie of this book starring James Earl Jones as Kumalo, and Richard Harris as Jarvis.

They do a little bit of plot modification toward the end, but overall, the movie is one of the closest adaptations of a book that I've ever seen.

Plus, did I mention that it's got James Earl Jones and Richard Harris? :D
   ~Posted by Douglas, Apr 13, 2008

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