About Alan Paton:
Alan Paton was born in South Africa on January 11, 1903. He attended the University of Natal and after graduation worked as a teacher, first at the high school level, and later at Maritzburg College. He married his wife, Dorrie in 1928, and the couple remained married until her death in 1967. They had two sons. Paton later married another woman, Anne, and they remained married until his death in 1988.
From 1935 until 1949, Paton served as the principle of a reformatory for young (native African) offenders. He introduced behavior-based privileges. Once a man proved himself trustworthy, he would be allowed housing in an open dormitory and could even earn the right to work outside the compound. Out of the over 10,000 men whom Paton granted home leave, fewer than 5 percent broke their trust by failing to return to the compound.
He volunteered to serve in World War II, but wasn’t accepted. After the war, he traveled at his own expense on a tour of correctional facilities across the world. During this period he wrote Cry, the Beloved Country. While traveling, he met Aubrey and Marigold Burns, who found a publisher for Paton’s novel. His editor, Maxwell Perkins, was noted for having edited works by Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe. Paton wrote many books, which sold well, making him a wealthy man.
In 1948, after the publication of his novel, Cry, the Beloved Country, Paton worked with others to fight against apartheid legislation introduced by the National Party. In 1960, he was presented the Freedom Award, and upon his return home from New York, his passport was confiscated.
About Cry, the Beloved Country:
An Oprah Book Club selection, Cry, the Beloved Country, the most famous and important novel in South Africa’s history, was an immediate worldwide bestseller in 1948. Alan Paton’s impassioned novel about a black man’s country under white man’s law is a work of searing beauty.
Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing, nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or valley. For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much.
The eminent literary critic Lewis Gannett wrote, “We have had many novels from statesmen and reformers, almost all bad; many novels from poets, almost all thin. In Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country the statesman, the poet and the novelist meet in a unique harmony.”
Cry, the Beloved Country is the deeply moving story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son, Absalom, set against the background of a land and a people riven by racial injustice. Remarkable for its lyricism, unforgettable for character and incident, Cry, the Beloved Country is a classic work of love and hope, courage and endurance, born of the dignity of man.
How did Paton get the idea for Cry, the Beloved Country?
It has been said that Cry, the Beloved Country is like a time capsule that transports the reader to South Africa during the 1940s. Paton said he wrote the novel as a “social record.” It depicts the conflicts in South Africa just before apartheid, a system of discrimination and racial segregation, was passed into law.
Quotes by Alan Paton:
- “When a deep injury is done us, we never recover until we forgive.”
- “To give up the task of reforming society is to give up one’s responsibility as a free man.”
- “There is only one way in which one can endure man’s inhumanity to man and that is to try, in one’s own life, to exemplify man’s humanity to man.”
- “But the one thing that has power completely is love, because when a man loves, he seeks no power, and therefore he has power.”