This is the most distinguished novel that has come out of South Africa in the 20th century, and it is one of the most important novels that has appeared anywhere in modern times. Cry, the Beloved Country is in some ways a sad book; it is an indictment of a social system that drives native races into resentment and crime; it is a story of Fate, as inevitable, as relentless, as anything of Thomas Hardy's. Beautifully wrought with high poetic compassion, Cry, the Beloved Country is more than just a story, it is a profound experience of the human spirit. And beyond the intense and insoluble personal tragedy, it is the story of the beautiful and tragic land of South Africa, its landscape, its people, and its bitter racial ferment and unrest.
Public Domain ©1948 by Alan Paton; (P)1993 by Blackstone Audiobooks
I live in South Africa, and I am horrified at the accents adopted by Frederick Davidson. They are not even vaguely Zulu, and they ruin the book completely. Alan Paton's classic deserved a reader who can do it justice. I have no problem with Davidson's English accent for narration, but his character accents sound more like they came from the Indian subcontinent than southern Africa. It's a crying shame.
I wonder if there could have been a more important book, a better reading of any book, or a more moving book for finding a humanity within oneself that certainly I did not know I had--but now do.
As long as I have my Audible, I'm content.
This is the 3rd time I have read this book. I read it twice in the 90s and loved loved loved it! I had passages memorized and I recommended it to everyone who read books. This time, I listened to it and it just started dawning on me that this book, while beautifully written, is not to be praised without qualification.
This is a story mostly about 2 fathers (one white and one black) and their 2 sons. The fathers live in a small village and their sons have both gone to Johannesburg. Their lives soon intersect and the story swirls back and forth between the two fathers' perspectives.
The way it is told is poetic, eloquent, poignant. Here is my favorite passage from the book:
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.
Paton, Alan (2003-11-25). Cry, the Beloved Country (p. 101). Scribner. Kindle Edition.
BUT (and this ruined it for me this time around) (I don't know what I was thinking the first two times - it's why I started listening to books - reading them, I remember almost nothing.)
Most of the black characters are either criminals, corrupt politicians, whores, or bootleggers, and the two that are presented in a positive light are parsons. All of the white people are good, kind, and magnanimous, stopping to give rides to black people, providing milk for poor black children, building new churches for black congregations, and paying for teachers to teach the poor blacks how to farm their land. Gag me.
I don't want to give away any of the plot, but black children are glossed over like scenery, while the white child in the book is referred to a having a "brightness" about him, even by Kumalo, the black parson who takes in his sister's child, but pretty much just ignores him. Black girls are reprimanded for their "careless laughter" and expected to be "quiet and obedient." Kumalo was described by the white man, Jarvis as being "humble and well-mannered" because he dropped his eyes, went down the steps, and sat down trembling upon Jarvis' arrival. When Kumalo dropped his hat, Jarvis picked it up and "held the hat carefully for it was old and dirty."
There's more, but you get the point. That sort of stuff is hard to read without wanting to shake the author and scream, "What the what??" But, it was 1948 when it was published, and the author did fight against apartheid, so maybe the book helped stir up some awareness of the injustice of it all. One character in the book does say, "it was the white man who gave us so little land, it was the white man who took us away from the land to go to work. And we were ignorant also. It is all these things together that have made this valley desolate. Therefore, what this good white man does is only a repayment." but he is soundly admonished by Kumalo. But then Kumalo does admit to himself that he has been called "the white man's dog" but doesn't know any other way to live and is too old to learn.
So all that said, it is beautifully written and I'm glad I read it again after all these years. But I don't think I'll be reading it again, and I won't be recommending it anymore without qualification.
The narration was absolutely perfect!
Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.
Poetic, sad, beautiful . . . transcending time, Cry, the Beloved Country, is as relevant today as it was in 1948 when Alan Paton wrote it . . . the simple lives of the South African people, their faith, their struggles and resilience . . . poured out in a rhythmic flowing verse that pierces the heart . . . strips away all pretense . . . a humble black pastor, a prodigal son gone to the city, gone wrong . . . way wrong . . . and his father, heartbroken, searching him out, fearing what he will find . . . and never making excuses for his son's sin . . . but ever loving, pining for him . . . As circumstances bring native black Afrikaans up against white people in a time of Apartheid, I am amazed and humbled, that this book is not in the least political or racially motivated. The overarching theme is love, even in the face of evil, character, even when things are most difficult, humility even when others do not see you as their equal, perseverance, when there is no rain, when there is no milk, when there is no help . . . and gratitude to God for even the smallest of blessings. This is one of the most important books of our time. Everyone should read/hear it.
A school administrator and avid reader and listener of books. At least an hour of every day is spent in the car, and that's where the bulk of my listening is done. I tend to listen to books on "faster" mode so I can get through more books!
I really wanted to enjoy this book. It is an important piece of literature that opened a window into a world little understood at the time. But I just couldn't find myself drawn to it. I did listen to the book and while the narrator was good, I wonder if this is one of those examples where the beauty and power of a book is lost through this medium. In the end, it was a disappointing use of my time, and that makes me sad.
I'm sure that this is a wonderful piece of literature, but the author's accent was very difficult for me to understand. He also did not do a good job of differentiating between characters with his voice, which made the plot difficult to follow. I restarted the book but eventually gave up because I had to work so hard to follow what was going on! Since I find that the narrator makes the audio book, maybe we should read this one..
Great moments of drama and wonderfully descriptive passages, but I felt the story wandered too often, especially in the end. Loved Michael York's performance- I could listen to that guy narrate anything. [AUDIBLE]
My bugbear was the narrator's pronunciation of Zulu and Afrikaans words as well as his attempts at the South African accent. He didn't use an accent for the Black characters, so I don't understand why he tried - unsuccessfully - for the Afrikaans characters. And words like 'veld', 'Xhosa', 'Ixopo': rather focus on getting those right than the bad accents. It's quite distracting.
Yes, this is a wonderful recording of a truly great book. It has been a while since I read the book, and the recording is remarkable.
James Jarvis, a little more than Reverend Kumulo . Jarvis had to make a change in his understanding. He became a better man because of the event.
It is still great even after all of these years and still can apply to today and to America
"Well worth it"
A very moving story, capturing the essence of South Africa at the time, and exceptionally well narrated.
"A classic for everyone with Africa in their Blood"
I was enraptured from start to finish - this book captures the spirit of South Africa, the story holds you spellbound from start to finish - a true classic
"South African classic; read by non South African"
I picked up this well known (and no doubt dated) South African novel by famed liberal writer, Alan Paton. I wanted to hear again the much quoted beautiful opening paragraph about the meandering hills and dusty roads of Ixopo; despite the limitations of South African liberalism and associated writings.
I had to put it down after the first few pages, seriously irritated by the cultured English rather than South African accent of Michael York, making well known terms like 'veld' (Afrikaans) and names like 'Ixopo' (Zulu) or 'Sophiatown' mispronounced and ultimately irritating, paragraph by paragraph, page by page.
Audio recordings may not have to be read by somebody from the book locale and setting, but if names and local terms are poorly pronounced and understood by the narrator, so much of context is lost and the story becomes jarring and painful rather than mellifluous as this novel's opening paragraph must be...
Audible should set up a place where recommendations for narrators and needed recordings or re-recordings might be made. How about somebody like Antony Sher for 'Cry, The Beloved Country' - which in its title already conveys so much...
"Beautiful and moving."
Fascinating to read of life in pre-Apartheid South Africa. And yet this human traits remain timeless. This narrator made the olden style of writing sound natural, and easy to follow.
Only once or twice, when the subject of a chapter switched focus, did I wonder if I'd skipped too far - I hadn't, the story simply brought in and followed another strand for a while. But without the ability to see the page numbers, I had to trust Audible (as I cycled along).
I would highly recommend this book, and recommend it on audible.
"A beautiful sad book about a beautiful sad country"
One of the best - great descriptive writing, dignified characters, a moving plot
Cry the Beloved Country really brings home the devastation wrought on local communities by industrialisation and urbanisation
Michael York's reading brings all the characters to life as dignified human beings
The trial and of course the ending.
"excellent book, strongly recommend it"
yes, both the story line and the readers voice is very captivating.
The lead character forced to face the reality of a changing South Africa.
He has a fabulous talent for performing as an old african man.
It made me very reflective of human nature and its ability to cause both violence and goodness in equal measures.
This is a classic novel about South Africa, at a time of social change. Though it is highly politically charged, it is also very human and very accessible to all readers, regardless of their personal interests in the continent. It addresses complex issues of good and evil in humans.
"Warm and informative"
The simplicity and selflessness of the protagonist.
The juxtaposition of Johannesburg with homeland of the protagonist creates a chasm which is impossible to cross. Seeing the city through the eyes not only of a stranger to the place, but through someone who is a true stranger to urbanisation brought a new dimension.
York has a warmth to his voice which feels as though he has experienced the narrative and adds a gravitas to it that would perhaps be missed otherwise.
Pity. The destruction of lives and the selfishness of people in the city, even of his own family, who with no regard for those they left behind began lives in the city of dereliction and immorality. What could bring someone to do that?
"A must-read book, very well narrated"
A compelling read, setting the recent history of South Africa in context. Wonderfully developed characters throughout. Very well narrated.
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