Cry, the Beloved Country

by Alan Paton

In Brief

Reverend Kumalo, an elderly and naïve minister from rural Natal, travels to Johannesburg in search of his errant son, Absalom. It is 1946 and racial discrimination is entrenched across South Africa. Johannesburg is turbulent and dangerous, and young people with few prospects are regularly lost to brothels and crime. Kumalo struggles to locate his son until a young white man is murdered and Absalom is arrested for the crime. By chance, Kumalo meets the victim's father, and the two men become bound together by the tragedy. In a small way, they start to repair some of the damage done by racial segregation to their beloved country.

Why you should read it

Written two years before the introduction of Apartheid as official government policy, Paton's novel is a heartfelt plea to white South Africans to recognise that one group cannot prosper on the back of another’s suffering. A beautifully crafted commentary on the futility of racial discrimination as a means to protect privilege, the novel did much to raise international awareness of the plight of black South Africans. To date it has sold more than 15 million copies.

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