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 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
This story is still relevant today, which is a huge misfortune. It's earnest way of pulling the soul out of people and putting it to paper will leave the reader pondering their role and their actions.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.