Last reviewed: June 2017
January 11, 1903
Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa
April 12, 1988
Botha's Hill, Natal, South Africa
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. Alan Paton
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 In fact, because of his outspoken opposition to apartheid his passport was withdrawn in 1960 and not returned until 1970.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.