Seventy years have passed since Alan Paton's remarkably prophetic novel, Cry, the Beloved Country was first published, but the issues raised then still continue to haunt South Africa. Fred Khumalo describes why the book still continues to exert a powerful influence on emotions in that country.
Many may not have realised that 70 years after Alan Paton's Cry, The Beloved Country was first published, much of the novel's persistent message of the inevitable triumph of goooover evil has been fulfilled: the National Party, which came to power at the same time as the publication of this classic novel and immediately introduced the racist policy of apartheid, is now dead.
Written in a hot-white rage, at a frenetic speed--Paton started writing it in September and finished on Christmas Eve in 1946 --the book was a cry of despair and a cautionary tale of how the theft of black people's land by their white conquerors would not only complicate race relations in South Africa but might lead into a bloodbath.
The power of Cry, the Beloved Country is its simplicity. It tells the tale of Reverend Kumalo, whose family flees to the city when it becomes clear to them that the land that they have been dumped on, after being forcefully removed from their ancestral home, cannot sustain them.
But the move to the city happens gradually. Reverend Kumalo has a younger sister, Gertrude, who is married to a local man who, after being blessed with a son, decides he has to go to the gold mines, there to earn enough money to sustain his new family.
When his time is up, however, the man does not return from , the mines of Johannesburg. So, Gertrude asks her brother for permission to go to Johannesburg to look for her missing husband. Upon arrival in Johannesburg, she writes back home to say she arrived safely and that she will duly embark upon her search. Weeks pass, months pass, Gertrude does not write again. A worried Reverend Kumalo then sends his son, Absalom, to look for Gertrude in Johannesburg.
Absalom is swallowed up by Johannesburg, never writing back to his parents. While they are still figuring out how to deal with this growing crisis, the Kumalos receive a letter from a mission house in Johannesburg. The author of the letter says the mission house has found Gertrude. She is very sick. Would Reverend Kumalo come up to Johannesburg to fetch her?
Indeed, he jumps on the train. In Johannesburg he is happy to be reunited with his sister. Gertrude then tells the...