Summer – a time for catching up, relaxing, exploring, starting new projects, or perhaps completing work in progress.  Reading, of course, is key in all of these.  With this in mind, we asked some faculty members at St. John’s about books that have influenced them personally or professionally.

Glenn Statile, an associate professor in the Philosophy Department and director of the Long Island Philosophical Society, writes:

Alan Paton’s inaugural novel entitled Cry, The Beloved Country (1948) is often said to have opened up a literary window on life in South Africa during the long scourge of apartheid to the entire world.  It is that and so much more , its author’s claiming his goal to have been no less than to stab his homeland in the conscience.  While dramatizing the agony of a country in an elegant and almost paradoxically lyrical fashion that bears much in common with the emotional crescendo of a Greek tragedy, the excellence of the novel is only partially dependent on its plot.  Characterization is also a strong suit.  Cry, The Beloved Country, while not a tale of two cities, presents the narrative of two parallel journeys. 

 First there is that of the Zulu Anglican minister Stephen Kumalo‘s physical journey from the tribal city of Ndotsheni to the big city of Johannesburg in search of his murderous son.  Simultaneously, the reader also learns of the psychological journey of the bigoted white farmer James Jarvis, who seeks to empathize with the moral essence of his own son Arthur, an advocate of racial justice whose life has been cut short by Absalom, the son of Stephen Kumalo who is thus to be executed for his crime . The paths of the two bereft fathers, who initially inhabit different sectors of the moral landscape, eventually meet on the shared plane of paternal grief.  Only then does the drought which plagues the region finally come to an end, allowing the healing rain of forgiveness and mutual respect to soak the South African soil with tears of renewed hope.