Alan Paton: A Biography

Peter Alexander, Author Oxford University Press, USA $35 (536p) ISBN 978-0-19-811237-2
South African writer Paton (1903-1988) had a rich life and career beyond his bestseller, Cry the Beloved Country. In this authorized biography, the South African-born and educated Alexander, who teaches English at a university in Australia, does Paton justice. He traces the origins of Paton's drive and values to his harsh childhood and authoritarian father, untangles deceptions in Paton's autobiographical writings and ably weaves together Paton's troubled personal life and his career. He shows how Paton's 1948 classic grew out of his work as principal of Diepkloof, a reformatory for black youths, from 1935 to 1948, and how his principles were fostered by his association with the Anglican church. He describes Paton's frustrations as a leader of the small anti-apartheid Liberal Party from 1953 to 1968, his harassment by the government and his subsequent clashes with radicals willing to use violence to fight the state. While none of Paton's post-Cry writngs hit such a high mark, Alexander deems them ``never less than good'' and observes that Paton's liberal ideals and political moderation have proved ``uncannily prophetic.'' A definitive work on an important writer and activist. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/29/1994
Release date: 09/01/1994
Genre: Nonfiction
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