Cry the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton, was further catapulted to bestseller status, when it was named a pick in Oprah’s Book Club. But, there’s much more to this African novel…
Paton first penned the novel in a burst of inspiration and emotion, starting in a hotel room, and culminating in a sparse three months. At the time of that initial outburst, he was conducting a survey of correctional facilities, but the immediate success of Cry the Beloved Country inspired him to become a full-time writer.
“I have left the public service,” Paton explained. “But not with any intention of living in idleness or ease. I want to interpret South Africa honestly and without fear. I cannot think of a more important or exciting task.”
Inherit the Fear (and Hope)
Paton writes, “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 much 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.”
With that tear-stained title, the book cries out to us all, demanding justice. Tradition is lost. the land is dying, and everything that is falling apart (even our most hopeless and impossible dreams).
The book is also a search for a way to explain the dichotomies of the real world — how a murderer could also be “a child afraid of the dark.” Hope is far away. But, in the end the dawn is just making its way over the horizon. The light is creeping up, chasing away the gloom. “For it is the dawn that has come,” Paton says, “as it has come for a thousand centuries, never failing.” Out of the bondage of fear, hope will always come back again. It cannot fail for long…