Visit the places that inspired
'Cry the Beloved Country' and the
early life of Alan Paton

The Writings

Alan Paton deep in thought, at his writing place.

Alan Paton didn’t leave home with the intention of writing a novel while travelling. What started him off, that September afternoon in Norway, was a tour of the cathedral of Trondheim. The beauty of its famous rose window made him yearn to write about his beautiful homeland and its people. As Paton explains in an Author’s Note to "Cry, the Beloved Country", it was in San Francisco that friends read his manuscript and started contacting publishers. The book was first published in New York in early 1948. The novel sold well both in North America and in Great Britain. It was soon translated into some 20 languages, and made into a film in England (1952) and a musical in the United States ("Lost in the Stars", 1949). The South African edition, dedicated to Jan Hofmeyr, came out three months before Hofmeyr’s death at age 54 in December 1948. Book sales in South Africa were second only to those of the Bible, and Paton became famous. Critic James Stern in the New Republic called it “one of the best novels of our time.” And Orville Prescott, The New York Times book reviewer, wrote in the Yale Review that:

"Paton’s novel was the finest I have ever read about the tragic plight of black-skinned people in a white man’s world."

Another event of importance to the Patons also occurred in 1948 - the coming to power of the Nationalist Party, pledged to separation of the races in every sphere of life. At Diepkloof the Patons had ignored people’s colour in forming friendships, and they could not endure the new government’s opposition to interracial association. With the success of his novel making Paton influential, he planned to become a full-time writer, but was drawn into the political arena. He was the first president of the Liberal Party of South Africa, which was founded in 1953 and forced to disband in 1968. For the next 15 years Paton’s life was dominated by activities of the racially mixed party, by writing plays for multiracial casts and audiences, and by political writing and speaking.

One play, "Mkhumbane", drew packed houses in Durban City Hall in 1960 - at a time when peaceful black protest against Apartheid at Sharpeville and Cape Town was dealt with extremely harshly by the government. For his work on behalf of the people of South Africa and against the evils of apartheid, Paton has received international recognition. In 1960 he received the Freedom Award from Freedom House. His second novel, "Too Late the Phalarope", appeared in 1953. He published a variety of books, and articles.

Mafavuke House

Home of the Alan Paton Will Trust

Location map

The Alan Paton Centre
University of KwaZulu-Natal
Visit this centre situated in
Pietermaritzburg and
find a wealth of

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