Yes, I admit it, this book made me cry. I lived and worked in South Africa and the story went right to my heart. Alan Paton’s deep love for the country and all its people shows in every word of this beautifully written novel. He wrote this book in the middle of the last century and yet he showed us a path to overcome the terrible and cruel system of the Apartheid, which created so much pain and suffering. His sent out a clear message, how to overcome fear and hatred, but his voice it is not the voice of a social activist, but the voice of a poet.
He tells us the story of the Zulu priest Kumalo, who leaves his small village and travels to bewildering Johannesburg, the center of the gold mining industry, to look for his son Absalom and his sister Gertrud. With dismay and deep sorrow he learns that his sister became a prostitute and his son turned into a criminal. Regardless of all the pain, he struggles to bring his family back home and to save them from the looming disaster. Kumalo’s deep compassion and honesty help him to find friends in the most unexpected places, even across race and social status.
Even if Kumalo fails in some of his attempts, the story is full of hope. There is violence and incredible sadness, but there is comfort, love and compassion as well.
Michael York does a fantastic job in telling the story. His voice and intonation give us a hint of the beauty of the native languages and above all, his voice matches the character of Kumalo perfectly.
Paton delivered a masterpiece, he is not only a great writer, he is a visionary and philosopher as well.