Book Review: Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton

If you want to understand the society Nelson Mandela grew up in, this is definitely THE book I would recommend.

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About the author:

Born on this day in 1903, Alan Paton was a South African author and anti-apartheid activist. The book that marked Paton’s stature in modern day literature is Cry, the Beloved Country, and it is this book that I want to share with you today.

In a world currently dominated by talks of a wall being built in America, boats floating in the middle of the Mediterranean, Brexit, and the world wide rise of populism, Cry, the Beloved Country (written more than 70 years ago) is one passionate tale of racial injustice and shows us, twenty-first century readers, how history goes around in circles.

Summary:

Cry, the Beloved Country vividly portrays the anguish suffered by an elderly South African black minister who must come to terms with his faith when his son is convicted of murdering a white man. It was first published in 1948, which is coincidentally the year in which apartheid laws were placed in full effect.

In a quiet, simple yet compelling voice, Paton opens up horizons and perspectives into what discrimination is: the pain, the marginalisation, the fear, injustice, the degradation, and the fruits of hopelessness.

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Here are some excerpts from this gem of a book:

“We shift our ground again when a black man does achieve something remarkable, and feel deep pity for a man who is condemned to the loneliness of being remarkable, and decide that it is a Christian kindness not to let black men become remarkable. Thus even our God becomes a confused and inconsistent creature, giving gifts and denying them employment.”

“The truth is that our civilization is not Christian; it is a tragic compound of great ideal and fearful practice, of high assurance and desperate anxiety, of loving charity and fearful clutching of possessions.”

“Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing, nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much.”

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