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Today's quote:

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Cry, The Beloved Country

Starring James Earl Jones, this is the 1995 remake of the 1951 version with Sidney Poitier


If you're Australian, you may be forgiven if you thought of "Poor Fellow My Country" as soon as you saw the heading. Both books are about their country's native population, but while Xavier Herbert's epic weighs in at 1463 pages (which makes it Australia's largest work of fiction), Alan Paton's "Cry, The Beloved Country" is a more modest and manageable 239 pages.

I was prompted to re-read this old 1958 PENGUIN classic (first published in 1944) after seeing it mentioned by David Smiedt in "Are we there yet?", and so many memories came flooding back of my short but very formative time in both South-West and South Africa in the late 1960s.

I felt extremely uncomfortable with the country's apartheid, made more horrible by the display of hatred against blacks by the three Afrikaaner women in my office. I still remember being called "Kaffirboetie" behind my back after having stopped Mevrou Russo's invective-laden dressing-down of an Ovambo who'd come to our office to collect his final pay at the end of his employment contract before returning to Ovamboland.

It was not the desolation of the surrounding Namib Desert, not the cold Benguela Current that turned swimming into a masochistic activity, not the dead-end nature of my glorified accountant's position, but this one incident which convinced me that I had come to the wrong country.

Six months later I was waving my couple of German friends a last good-bye, flew down to Cape Town and, shortly afterwards, boarded SS Ellinis to return to Australia. History has proven me right and apartheid wrong!

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P.S. If you want to read more about South Africa's former apartheid, I recommend "Heart of Whiteness" and "The White Tribe of Africa" (to BORROW the books, simply JOIN UP - it's free! - then LOG IN).