Saturday, May 18, 2019

Stay Well, Go Well

I read another book today. It was a book I bought and owned 55 years ago but never read. I’m glad I read it now. The book was Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country, a story about the people – both Zulu and European - of South Africa, and a story about the land itself. 

While reading it, I felt as though I were not reading, but living it, seeing the land all around me, and interacting with the characters who inhabit it. All the people were real to me. All their pain was real to me. And, if I ever doubted that there is beauty in simplicity, I know it now. 

The story begins in a remote village in the province of Natal in eastern South Africa when a minister (called umfundisi in Afrikaans) receives a letter summoning him to Johannesburg where his sister has fallen ill. 

After discussing it with his wife, Stephen Kumalo begins his journey to the city where he witnesses the unrest caused by racial and economic disparity and the greed that divides people. In Johannesburg, too, he learns that his son has spent time in a reformatory. In the meantime, a newspaper reveals that a man called Arthur Jarvis, a local white proponent of racial equality, has been murdered in his home during a burglary. 

Kumalo then learns that his son, Absalom, has been arrested for Jarvis’s murder, and that he has confessed to the crime, and that the victim was the son of a wealthy white man who is his neighbor back in Natal. 

After Absalom is convicted Kumalo returns to his village. On the night before his son’s execution, he withdraws to a mountain to await the time of his son’s death and weeps until dawn. 

This image of Natal, which I downloaded from, is titled mountain reflection

Cry, the Beloved Country is a story so beautiful and so heartbreaking, I cried. It is also a story written with language as lyrical and as deep as the compassion with which Paton portrays his characters, both black and white.

In South Africa when one companion is leaving another, it is the custom for the departing one to say, Stay well, and for the other to reply, Go well.

Stay well, my Friends.

My memoir, Dear Elvis, can be found at

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