Alan Paton Biography

Alan Paton Biography

Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country, his most famous work in support of racial tolerance and sensitivity, could not have been published at a more ironic time. Written in the waning days of the Second World War, the novel was published in 1948, just as supporters of apartheid took over South Africa and turned their belief in segregation and discrimination into law. In depicting the struggles of one Zulu family, Cry, the Beloved Country encapsulated the turmoil of South Africa as a whole, and the popularity of the novel made it a touchstone of the antiapartheid movement. Though the face of the country would be forever changed by five decades of racial segregation, Paton’s novel ended with the main character in prayer—a prayer that Paton had for his conflicted homeland.

Facts and Trivia

  • Early in his life, Paton oversaw a reformatory school and instituted many progressive reforms during his tenure.
  • Paton founded the South African Liberal Party five years after the Nationalists took control of South Africa. The party’s primary goal was to end apartheid.
  • Paton was a proponent of nonviolent opposition to apartheid practices, placing him at odds with some South African activists who felt that violence was a necessary tool for freedom.
  • Besides two film versions, Cry, the Beloved Country has been adapted into a stage musical by noted playwright Maxwell Anderson and composer (and Brecht collaborator) Kurt Weill.
  • The year following Paton’s death, the Johannesburg-based publication Sunday Times instituted an award in his name honoring nonfiction writing. One of its early recipients was Nelson Mandela.
Additional Content
  • Biography (History of the World: The 20th Century)
  • Biography (Survey of Novels and Novellas)
  • Biography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)
  • Biography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)
  • Biography
  • Biography
  • Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)
  • Biography

(The entire section is 4585 words.)