Alan Paton (Alan Stewart Paton) Biography
(1903–88), (Alan Stewart Paton), Debbie Go Home, Cry, the Beloved Country, Lost in the Stars
South African novelist, educator, and biographer, born in Pietermaritzburg, educated at Natal University College, where he studied mathematics and physics. Though he was National President of the South African Liberal Party until it was declared illegal in 1968, Paton's profound knowledge of South African society and the apartheid system stems not only from his political activities, but also from his experience as a teacher and Principal of Diepkloof Reformatory in the Transvaal for thirteen years. Some of the short stories in Debbie Go Home (1961) are directly based on this experience. His first novel, Cry, the Beloved Country (1948), was an international bestseller; it was later filmed by Alexander Korda, and made into an opera by Maxwell Anderson and Kurt Weill entitled Lost in the Stars (1950). Equally powerful, but formally more accomplished, is Too Late the Phalarope (1953). Paton's biographies of personal friends who were publicly involved in the tragedies of South African politics are generally considered to be scrupulously objective, and include Hofmeyr (1964) and Apartheid and the Archbishop: The Life and Times of Geoffrey Clayton, Archbishop of Cape Town (1973). His third novel, Ah, but Your Land Is Beautiful (1981) is less emotionally intense than his earlier fiction, but its unflinching chronicle of the struggle against apartheid in the 1950s employs a vigorous semi-documentary style of writing to most compelling effect. See Edward Callan, Alan Paton (1982).