© 2009 Linsen. All rights reserved. BelovedCountry

Cry, The Beloved Country

Alan Paton’s Cry, The Beloved Country is one of those novels that I’ve known about for ever, but never managed to read. Given my recent spate of reading South African historical novels, I thought it would be appropriate to tackle it.

Superficially it tells the story of a poor rural black parson who goes to Johannesburg in search of his son. At a more fundamental level, however, I found it reminiscent of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart – the decline of a tribal society in the face of Western culture, and the void left behind because no one creates new social structures to replace it.

The prose is excellent, and even with my rather poor Xhosa I could pick up that the style of dialogue and, where following the Zulu parson, the text strongly echo the manner in which Nguni languages like Xhosa and Zulu function.  There is also lovely use of metaphor: the writing is rich with imagery.

It is easy to see why this relatively short novel has become a modern classic.

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