Today is the birthday of Alan Paton, born in 1903, died in 1988. Cry, the Beloved Country is one of my favorite books, tragic in the truest sense of the word. I also own and have read Too Late the Phalarope, but I can’t relate as well to the themes and characters of that book–although the descriptions are beautiful. I like a lot of little things about Cry, the Beloved Country— the way the dialog is written with dashes instead of quotation marks, the way the characters greet and take leave of each other with the words “go well” and “stay well,” the descriptions of home and the South African countryside, the two Episcopal priests who become friends in the midst of tragedy, the word “umfundisi.” Here are a couple of quotations:
—Cry the beloved country, for the unborn child who is the inheritor of out fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, not 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 of all if he gives too much.
–I see only one hope for our country, and that is when white men and black men, desiring neither power nor money, but desiring only the good of their country, come together to work for it.
He was grave and silent, and then he said sombrely, I have only one great fear in my heart, that one day when they are turned to loving, they will find that we are turned to hating.
i’ve always thought that was an incredibly sad and true thought. There is a window of opportunity for many things. Now is the window for Iraq. If the people of Iraq grab the opportunity, and forgive the Americans for whatever mistakes we may make in trying to help rebuild that country, and if the right people come forward to do the right jobs, and if we don’t give up and if Christian groups are allowed to work there and demonstrate the love of God, there is a possibility that Iraq can become a showcase for peace and democracy. But there’s the possibility that “one day when they are turned to loving, they will find that we are turned to hating.” What a waste that would be!
Here’s a pages with links to information about Alan Paton and his books. I noticed the other day when I was at Barnes and Noble that Cry the Beloved Country was displayed prominently, and I wondered why. I found out that it’s Oprah’s current book club selection 🙂