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“The greatest novel to emerge out of the tragedy of South Africa, and one of the best novels of our time.” —The New Republic
“A beautiful novel...its writing is so fresh, its projection of character so immediate and full, its events so compelling, and its understanding so compassionate that to read the book is to share intimately, even to the point of catharsis, in the grave human experience.” —The New York Times
An Oprah Book Club selection, Cry, the Beloved Country, was an immediate worldwide bestseller when it was published in 1948. Alan Paton’s impassioned novel about a black man’s country under white man’s law is a work of searing beauty.
Cry, the Beloved Country, is the deeply moving story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son, Absalom, set against the background of a land and a people riven by racial injustice. Remarkable for its lyricism, unforgettable for character and incident, Cry, the Beloved Country is a classic work of love and hope, courage and endurance, born of the dignity of man.
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Alan Paton, a native son of South Africa, was born in Pietermaritzburg, in the province of Natal, in 1903. Paton's initial career was spent teaching in schools for the sons of rich, white South Africans, But at thirty, he suffered a severe attack of enteric fever, and in the time he had to reflect upon his life, he decided that he did not want to spend his life teaching the sons of the rich. He got a job as principal of Diepkloof Reformatory, a huge prison school for delinquent black boys, on the edge of Johannesburg. He worked at Diepkloof for ten years, and at the end of it Paton felt so strongly that he needed a change, that he sold his life insurance policies to finance a prison-study trip that took him to Scandinavia, England, and the United States. It was during this time that he unexpectedly wrote his first published novel, Cry, the Beloved Country. It stands as the single most important novel in South African literature. Alan Paton died in 1988 in South Africa.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
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. About you there is grass and bracken and you may hear the forlorn crying of the titihoya, one of the birds of the veld. Below you is the valley of the Umzimkulu, on its journey from the Drakensberg to the sea; and beyond and behind the river, great hill after great hill; and beyond and behind them, the mountains of Ingeli and East Griqualand.
The grass is rich and matted, you cannot see the soil. It holds the rain and the mist, and they seep into the ground, feeding the streams in every kloof. It is well-tended, and not too many cattle feed upon it; not too many fires burn it, laying bare the soil. Stand unshod upon it, for the ground is holy, being even as it came from the Creator. Keep it, guard it, care for it, for it keeps men, guards men, cares for men. Destroy it and man is destroyed.
Where you stand the grass is rich and matted, you cannot see the soil. But the rich green hills break down. They fall to the valley below, and falling, change their nature. For they grow red and bare; they cannot hold the rain and mist, and the streams are dry in the kloofs. Too many cattle feed upon the grass, and too many fires have burned it. Stand shod upon it, for it is coarse and sharp, and the stones cut under the feet. It is not kept, or guarded, or cared for, it no longer keeps men, guards men, cares for men. The titihoya does not cry here any more.
The great red hills stand desolate, and the earth has torn away like flesh. The lightning flashes over them, the clouds pour down upon them, the dead streams come to life, full of the red blood of the earth. Down in the valleys women scratch the soil that is left, and the maize hardly reaches the height of a man. They are valleys of old men and old women, of mothers and children. The men are away, the young men and the girls are away. The soil cannot keep them any more.
Copyright (c) 1948 by Alan Paton
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