Alan Paton Additional Biography


Much that matters in his writing stems from the fact that Alan Stewart Paton was born in 1903 in Pietermaritzburg in Natal, South Africa. He loved that local land as much as he loved books. He learned both passions, which figure prominently in his writings, from his father, James Paton, an immigrant from Scotland, and his mother, Eunice Warder James Paton, the daughter of English immigrants. His father was a deeply religious Christian and a strict authoritarian, so strict that his disciplinary practices provoked Paton to resist authoritarianism in any form.

Paton married Doris “Dorrie” Olive Francis in 1928, and they had two sons, David and Jonathan. Following Dorrie’s death in 1967, he married Anne Hopkins. After teaching chemistry and mathematics in high school and college, Paton worked as principal of the Diepkloof reformatory from 1935 until the publication of Cry, the Beloved Country, his first novel, written from the homesick perspective gained during a three-month tour of prisons in England and the United States.

Among the earliest voices for racial equality in South Africa, Paton helped create and vigorously promoted the Liberal Party during the 1950’s, actively opposing his country’s policy of apartheid. That opposition resulted in confiscation of his passport, eventual dissolution of the party, and the South African government’s banning of his beloved Defence and Aid Fund, which had provided legal fees for oppressed blacks. By the time of his death at age eighty-five, Paton had been honored throughout the world with international awards for his humanitarian work and honorary degrees in recognition of his writing from such prestigious universities as Harvard, Yale, and Edinburgh.


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111201617-Paton.jpg Alan Paton Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Alan Stewart Paton (PAT-uhn) was born in Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa, on January 11, 1903. He attended high school at Maritzburg College, received a bachelor of science from the University of Natal in 1923 with distinction in physics, and was student representative to the first Imperial Conference of Students in London. He taught privileged youngsters mathematics and chemistry at Ixopo High School, Natal, from 1925 to 1928, then joined the staff of Maritzburg College in 1928. He married Doris Francis the same year; they had two children.

Stricken with enteric fever, he redirected his life and in 1935 became the principal of Johannesburg’s Diepkloof Reformatory for some four hundred delinquent African youths. He immediately instituted major changes to upgrade their quality of life, restore their dignity, encourage improved behavior, and provide job training and paid work opportunities. A decade later, in Cry, the Beloved Country (1948), a pleasant, young reformatory counselor proudly describes these enlightened policies. Debbie Go Home (1961; published in the United States as Tales from a Troubled Land, 1961) also recounts reformatory life. Success at Diepkloof earned Paton an international reputation for penal reform. Ineligible for military duty, he became the wartime chair of the combined Young Men’s Christian Association and Toc H War Services. In 1942, he was appointed to the Anglican Diocesan Commission to...

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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Alan Paton’s literary creations are inseparable from South Africa and its politics. As Edward Callan so aptly states, the vision of his novels encompasses South Africa’s nationwide conflict “between black aspirations to human dignity and white fears for the loss of power and privilege.” His writings—most particularly Cry, the Beloved Country—speak to the heart in a simple, clear, dramatic way that cannot be ignored. They are intellectually honest, infused with a love of Africa, and exhibit a belief in the essential dignity of all humankind and a sadness at the suffering of a people and nation. They capture the human condition, looking uncompromisingly at desolation, despair, cruelty, violence, and fear yet finding hope in small acts of kindness, in a bird’s song, in fleeting moments of interracial understanding. As long as differences of race, color, or creed produce oppression, Cry, the Beloved Country will continue to be read as avidly as it has been read since its publication.


Born on January 11, 1903, in Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa, Alan Paton evolved as an eloquent spokesman against apartheid and a great...

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Alan Paton is remembered as an exceptional writer, a passionate activist, and a compelling educator. He was born on January 11, 1903, in...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Perhaps more a great humanitarian than a novelist, Alan Paton (PAT-uhn) nevertheless wrote highly acclaimed novels about racial problems in Africa. Born in Pietermaritzburg, Natal, he wrote out of lifelong familiarity with the land and its people, white and black.

Though always interested in literature, Paton first chose a career in science and became a science teacher in the school at the African village of Ixopo, which was later to figure in Cry, the Beloved Country.

In 1928 he married Doris Francis Lusted, who died in 1968 and was the subject of his For You Departed. He converted from Methodism to Anglicanism in 1930, and in 1935 he became head of a reformatory for delinquent boys and made it a model institution. After abandoning two novels he began Cry, the Beloved Country in 1946 while on a tour studying prison reform. The book, published in 1948, became an overnight success and was eventually translated into twenty languages. Too Late the Phalarope, probably because of its heavy style, was not as well received.

In 1953 Paton founded the Liberal Party and became its president, but the multiracial party was disbanded in 1968. In fact, because of his outspoken opposition to apartheid his passport was withdrawn in 1960 and not returned until 1970. During the 1970’s and 1980’s he continued his political activity, which coincided with his writing of Apartheid and the Archbishop: The Life and Times of Geoffrey Clayton. Towards the Mountain and Journey Continued make up a two-volume autobiography. Paton died of cancer at his home in Botha’s Hill, South Africa, on April 12, 1988.


Alan Paton Published by Gale Cengage

Alan Stewart Paton was bom in Pietermaritzburg, Natal (now part of South Africa), on January 11, 1903. At the age of twelve, he entered...

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