Wednesday, August 21, 2013

CRY THE BELOVED COUNTRY: Alan Paton and his masterpiece is still alive today

The following is from internet site: "Cry, the Beloved Country Quotes" from the book by Alan Paton, written 1946-1947, published 1948 (Also see the film by the same name.) The book is a search for justice in a land where injustices kill. The book is a search for forgiveness, a search for a way to go on despite the pain and suffering, despite the fear.

"The book is a search for understanding, a way of coping with reality that a man accused of murder could have been the same person who was once "a child afraid of the dark."

'The book is a search for hope, realizing that hope seems far away--in another country or another world. But, if there is universality to the book, and if there is hope for humanity, there must be a bit left for every part. As for injustice, hate, and evil of all sorts, the book makes us believe that we are not beyond hope. The fragments of the past and the present can be picked up, perhaps rearranged a bit, and they can play a part in a future... The dawn is just making its way over the horizon."

Film reviews here:‎‎

* See more on Paton and this novel at the end of post...

Here are some select quotes:

“What broke in a man when he could bring himself to kill another? What broke when he could bring himself to thrust down the knife into the warm flesh, to bring down the axe on the living head, to cleave down between the seeing eyes, to shoot the gun that would drive death into the beating heart?”

“The tragedy is not that things are broken. The tragedy is that things are not mended again.”

“But there is only one thing that has power completely, and this is love. Because when a man loves, he seeks no power, and therefore he has power.”

“Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that's 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 if he gives too much.”

“ — This world is full of trouble, umfundisi.
— Who knows it better?
— Yet you believe?
Kumalo looked at him under the light of the lamp. I believe, he said, but I have learned that it is a secret. Pain and suffering, they are a secret. Kindness and love, they are a secret. But I have learned that kindness and love can pay for pain and suffering."

“I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they are turned to loving, they will find that we are turned to hating.”

“Happy the eyes that can close”

“We do not know, we do not know. We shall live from day to day, and put more locks on the doors, and get a fine fierce dog when the fine fierce bitch next door has pups, and hold on to our handbags more tenaciously; and the beauty of the trees by night, and the raptures of lovers under the stars, these things we shall forego. We shall forego the coming home drunken through the midnight streets, and the evening walk over the star-lit veld. We shall be careful, and knock this off our lives, and knock that off our lives, and hedge ourselves about with safety and precaution. And our lives will shrink, but they shall be the lives of superior beings; and we shall live with fear, but at least it will not be a fear of the unknown. And the conscience shall be thrust down; the light of life shall not be extinguished, but be put under a bushel, to be preserved for a generation that will live by it again, in some day not yet come; and how it will come, and when it will come, we shall not think about at all.”

“The truth is, our civilization is not Christian; it is a tragic compound of great ideal and fearful practice, of loving charity and fearful clutching of possessions.”

“The Judge does not make the law. It is people that make the law. Therefore if a law is unjust, and if the Judge judges according to the law, that is justice, even if it is not just.”

“Who indeed knows the secret of the earthly pilgrimage? Who indeed knows why there can be comfort in a world of desolation? Now God be thanked that there is a Beloved One who can lift up the heart in suffering, that one can play with a child in the face of such misery. Now God be thanked that the name of a hill is such music, that the name of a river can heal. Aye, even the name of a river that runs no more.

Who indeed knows the secret of the earthly pilgrimage? Who knows for what we live, and struggle and die? Who knows what keeps us living and struggling, while all things break about us? Who knows why the warm flesh of a child is such comfort, when one's own child is lost and cannot be recovered? Wise men write many books, in words too hard to understand. But this, the purpose of our lives, the end of all our struggle, is beyond all human wisdom.”

“There is not much talking now. A silence falls upon them all. This is no time to talk of hedges and fields, or the beauties of any country. Sadness and fear and hate, how they well up in the heart and mind, whenever one opens pages of these messengers of doom. Cry for the broken tribe, for the law and the custom that is gone. Aye, and cry aloud for the man who is dead, for the woman and children bereaved. Cry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an end. The sun pours down on the earth, on the lovely land that man cannot enjoy. He knows only the fear of his heart.”

“There is a man sleeping in the grass. And over him is gathering the greatest storm of all his days. Such lightening and thunder will come there has never been seen before, bringing death and destruction. People hurry home past him, to places safe from danger. And whether they do not see him there in the grass, or whether they fear to halt even a moment, but they do not wake him, they let him be.”

“For it is the dawn that has come, as it has come for a thousand centuries, never failing.”

“What broke in a man when he could bring himself to kill another? What broke when he could bring himself to thrust down the knife into the warm flesh, to bring down the axe on the living head, to cleave down between the seeing eyes, to shoot the gun that would drive death into the beating heart?”

“because life slips away, and because I need for the rest of my journey a star that will not play false to me, a compass that will not lie.”

“It is not permissible for us to go on destroying the family life when we know that we are destroying it.”

In the deserted harbour there is yet water that laps against the quays. In the dark and silent forest there is a leaf that falls. Behind the polished panelling the white ant eats away the wood. Nothing is ever quiet, except for fools.”

“We do not work for men. We work for the land and the people. We do not even work for money.”

“For mines are for men, not for money. And money is not something to go mad about, and throw your hat into the air for. Money is for food and clothes and comfort, and a visit to the pictures. Money is to make happy the lives of children. Money is for security, and for dreams, and for hopes, and for purposes. Money is for buying the fruits of the earth, of the land where you were born.”

“Sorrow is better than fear. Fear is a journey,a terrible journey, but sorrow is at least an arrival.

When the storm threatens, a man is afraid for his house. But when the house is destroyed, there is something to do. About a storm he can do nothing, but he can rebuild a house.”

“One thing is about to be finished, but here is something that is only begun. And while I live it will continue”

“Would age now swiftly overtake him? Would this terrible nodding last now for all his days, so that men said aloud in his presence, it is nothing, he is old and does nothing but forget? And would he nod as though he too were saying, Yes, it is nothing, I am old and do nothing but forget? But who would know that he said, I do nothing but remember?”

“They were your friends?"

"Yes, they were my friends."

"And they will leave you to suffer alone?"

"Now I see it."

"And until this, were they friends you could trust?"

"I could trust them."

"I see what you mean. You mean they were the kind of friends that a good man could choose, upright, hard-working, obeying the law?

Tell me, were they such friends?

And now they leave you alone?

Did you not see it before?"

"I saw it.”


"Cry, the Beloved Country is a novel by South African author Alan Paton. It was first published in New York City in 1948 by Charles Scribner's Sons and in London by Jonathan Cape. The protagonist is Stephen Kumalo, a black Anglican priest from a rural Natal town, who is searching for his son Absalom in the city of Johannesburg.
The American publisher Bennett Cerf remarked at that year's meeting of the American Booksellers Association that there had been "only three novels published since the first of the year that were worth reading ... Cry, The Beloved Country, The Ides of March, and The Naked and the Dead."

Two cinema adaptations of the book have been made, the first in 1951 and the second in 1995. The novel was also adapted as a musical called Lost in the Stars (1949), with a book by the American writer Maxwell Anderson and music composed by the German emigre, Kurt Weill. It was recently produced by the Glimmerglass Opera of New York in 2012, directed by Tazewell Thompson.

(The notes at top and here at end of post were found: at wikipedia/general internet cache. The painting at top is from: Small Impressions: California Hills--Landscape Oil Painting This is how I visualized some of the description in Paton's novel. )


robert said...


This is lovely post. Thank you for it.

Paton's writing reminds me, for some reason, of Gibran. I like Paton's reflections of broken-ness, healing, and the often hidden intent behind what is visible.

All good wishes,


CN said...

I hadn't considered these similarities. Yet now that you've listed these, I see the parallels:



Hidden intent

Thanx for your insight.

Oh for God's light and grace to point out differences where necessary and yet to point out the parallels and common ground as well.

Blessings to you,