Cry, the Beloved Country: A Story of Comfort in Desolation

Cry, the Beloved Country: A Story of Comfort in Desolation

by Alan Paton
4.0 130


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Cry, the Beloved Country: A Story of Comfort in Desolation by Alan Paton

Cry, the Beloved Country is a beautifully told and
profoundly compassionate story of the Zulu pastor
Stephen Kumalo and his son Absalom, set in the
troubled and changing South Africa of the 1940s.

The book is written with such keen empathy and
understanding that to read it is to share fully in the
gravity of the characters' situations. It both touches
your heart deeply and inspires a renewed faith in
the dignity of mankind. Cry, the Beloved Country is
a classic tale, passionately African, timeless and
universal, and beyond all, selfless.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780684155593
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/28/1977
Pages: 304

About the Author

Date of Birth:

January 11, 1903

Date of Death:

April 12, 1988

Place of Birth:

Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa

Place of Death:

Durban, Natal, South Africa


Maritzburg College, 1918; B.S., Natal University College, 1924

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Cry, the Beloved Country 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 130 reviews.
Chas_Ackerman More than 1 year ago
This strange, lyrical novel is easily the most agonizing painful books I've ever read. Murder is perhaps the most overdone topic in the history of literature, but if all were done like this, we couldn't bear to read many. Published months before white supremacists created the legal system of apartheid (and set two years earlier, in the fall of 1946), the novel follows the fathers of an accidental killer and his unintended victim, starting before the murder and ending only after we get a sense of its ripple effects through the lives of whites and blacks as they try to make sense of the utterly pointless tragedy and the social system that led to it. It's a novel that does little to try to flashily seduce the reader. It starts out with a description of a rural valley in South Africa, a description that is repeated later with some key differences. Then it moves dialogue that almost sounds off-key: there are no quotation marks, only dashes, to indicate speakers and the characters have an odd repetitious quality to their speech that puzzles at first. At the risk of only a little hyperbole, it sounds like this: -- The sky is blue. -- You say the sky is blue. His eyes flickered upward. -- I say the sky is blue. -- I understand. The man nodded. -- You understand. My initial reaction to this was, "Oh man, did I pay for this?" But then as the matters grow more serious, I learned to appreciate that such dialogue has a somber rhythm, if not beauty, to it. It is not so much repetition as characters recognizing each other's humanity. And that is what makes this book so painful. Paton at every key moment goes for the perfectly understated emotion. The father of the murder victim does nothing histrionic -- there's simply this powerful scene in which he looks around his son's library, which is filled with passionate political books that mean nothing to him. He's forced to simultaneously confront the gulf that had arisen between himself and his son -- this sense that his own offspring is a mystery -- and also the grievous sense of loss in the quiet room (with the blood stain down the hallway). Scenes like this hurt. Toward the end, there's a stretch of maybe thirty or forty pages in which the characters briefly become symbols and Paton seems to be letting whites off easy in their greater complicity. But Paton himself seems aware of this, as he has a character that I was starting to find unrealistic deny that he is a saint and another character points out how much of the blame rests with the sins against humanity of the whites. What to make of these possible missteps by Paton and his own attempt to ameliorate them become a moot point by the powerful final scene. It's simply a man watching the sunrise. Yet, because of what it means when the sun rises above the horizon, I think that scene will stay with me far longer than the last couple pages of any other novel I've ever read. I am, I'm sure, reading this at a time when I'm particularly susceptible to its sentiments. After months of worrying about whether my infant son, who has just seemed like a bundle of vulnerability, I am watching him grow past the initial troubles that can beset a baby. He is starting to show a personality and I can begin to wonder what the future will hold in store for him. And this novel combines what are probably the two worst fates your child could experience: to murder or to be murdered. To me this is much more of a horror novel than some junk abou
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is great, and if you rated the book one star on the complaint that the first chapter is about grass, you are idiotic. The meaning of the first chapter is much greater than just grass, and if you were reading the book and it was at your reading level, you would understand! Everyone should read this book!
The_hibernators More than 1 year ago
I had a hard time deciding between three and four stars for this book. It is a classic and deals with a very difficult subject, but the story-line seems scattered at times. Paton was trying to communicate the pain, fear, and anger that punctuated life in South Africa in the 1940s. This sociological topic is difficult for young people to grasp.well, it's difficult for not-so-young people to grasp if they have never experienced it. Thus, I found the book's topic interesting and learned a lot. The main character was complex and well-rounded. The raw emotion was captured. Because of this, I give the book four stars. However, a word of caution: when you read it, be prepared to accept the slow-moving, disconnected story line and just enjoy the characters and the sociological portrayal.
ChingJP More than 1 year ago
I read an earlier edition many years ago and loved it. Last year, I visited South Africa for the first time and then this year ran into a long time colleague who has devoted his last professional years in building bridges between US and South Africa higher educational institutions. So, I picked up the latest edition of Cry, The Beloved Country. Somehow, I got more out of it this time. Maybe, it's because I can imagine the narrative better, having been to South Africa and relate better to the story.
Anonymous 21 days ago
Toke it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Why is the beginning about grass?????
AccountabilityCitizenship More than 1 year ago
A classic that transcends nationality and time:
quiltbrain More than 1 year ago
This book is a heartacher. It was written in 1948, but its topic is still happening now both in South Africa and the U.S. Fathers lose their sons and find compassion, forgiveness and acceptence in the midst of terrible tragedy. This is not light reading by any means - I was sobbing afterwards and stunned for days even though I had read it 45 years ago. It didn't affect me then like it has now since the loss of Nelson Mandela. I didn't even know who he was back then. Please read it. It's a deeply moving classic with a timeless story. Mandela's family has asked us to hold onto one word in his memory -- Forgiveness.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Still important. Still moving.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have to read this in lit and so far its great!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I chose “Cry, The Beloved Country” for review.  Alan Paton, a native of South Africa, illustrates his outcry for the injustices in 1946 South Africa as well as his yearning for justice in this novel.  The book follows a pastor from the small town of Ixopo.  Reverend Steven Kumalo receives a letter about his sister’s well-being and embarks on a journey to find her.  A majority of the story takes place in Pietermaritzburg, the capital of KwaZuluNatal.  In his search for his sister, Gertrude, Kumalo also embarks on a journey for his son Absalom.  The exposition to the each encounter is lengthy and I would like to avoid a summary of the book and gear the review as an opinion.  Throughout his journey, Kumalo experiences the trials of his people from his poor small town to the industrial revolutionized capital.  “Cry, The Beloved Country” brings to life the struggle that still plagues South Africa, a land considered free due to the innovations and technology that have been brought from the Europeans.  However, the reader sees that as the book progresses, the initial facade of oppression is minute compared to the deeper message.   Although greeted with hospitality by a fellow layperson, Msimangu and Father Vincent, Kumalo is introduced to the cruel and subliminal oppression that Europeans have brought.  Kumalo sees his fellow tribesmen pushed to the outskirts of town, living in scraps(huts), held together by tape.  He witnesses the corruption through power to his people.  Along his journey, Kumalo learns that his sister, Gertrude, has become a prostitute, for the love of money, and although he tries to bring her to salvation; she cannot break her habits and abandons Kumalo with her newborn child.  To place a heavier burden on Kumalo, his son has been convicted of a murder, a crime committed out of fear and under the influence of his peers. To complicate the story more, Kumalo encounters his brother, John. Once a young man after the faith of God, much like Kumalo, John has been skewed in his mission to liberate their people.  John uses his commanding tone, unlike the humble Kumalo, to inspire their people almost to the point of revolution.  Here, the separation of paths is seen and a moral conflict of leadership is opened.  Kumalo wishes to lead his people to salvation through education with the coming change of industrial revolution; John wishing to stir the people to revolt against the oppression.   Kumalo, an old man living beyond his time, is forced to deal with the pain of changing times.  He sees and feels that with the coming of the new age also comes a a heavier burden of his people, a beautiful tribe, to acclimate and overcome the prejudices that were set on them by the Europeans.  Broken in age, but not in spirit, Kumalo is put to the ultimate test to live through his son's execution and raise Absalom's son and young wife.  I won't use the word captivating to describe this literature because I see it everywhere.  But I strongly recommend this book.  “Cry, The Beloved Country” has made me look deeper into the struggle of the African nation and the struggle of people as a whole to live in unison.  To see the corruption around us that is not so apparent but surrounds us everyday.  Truly gripping and I hope you get a chance to read it!
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Loved this book - very spiritual and timeless story. Good suggestion for a book club.
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