This is one of my favourite books. The writing is exquisite to the point of pain. The story is laden with layers as deep as ancient crevices, exploring the extent of human frailties and the depths of human emotion.
A South African preacher goes to search for his wayward son, who has committed a crime in the big city. The plot focuses on how two fathers confront in the personal tragedy the structurally supported implications of racial formations. The personal is political and the political is personal. There have been two cinematic outings of the book. The book opens with a magnificent paragraph which is the first excerpt:
I have included two excerpts which, I hope, will be nostalgic for those who have read the book, or be a spur-to-read for those who have not already.
“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.”
“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”.
Cry, the Beloved Country (1948) – Alan Paton