Alan Paton

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Alan Stewart Paton (11 January 1903 – 12 April 1988) was a South African author and anti-apartheid activist.



Paton was born in Pietermaritzburg, Natal Province (now KwaZulu-Natal), the son of a minor civil servant.[1] After attending Maritzburg College, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Natal[1] in his hometown, followed by a diploma in education. After graduation, Paton worked as a teacher, first at the Ixopo High School, and subsequently at a Pietermaritzburg high school[1] While at Ixopo he met Dorrie Francis Lusted.[1] They were married in 1928 and remained together until her death from emphysema in 1967.[1] Their life together is documented in Paton's book Kontakion for You Departed, published in 1969. Paton and his secretary, Anne Hopkins, were married the same year.[1]

Early career

He served as the principal of Diepkloof Reformatory for young (African Black) offenders from 1935 to 1949, where he introduced controversial reforms of a progressive slant.[1] Most notable among these were the open dormitory policy, the work permit policy, and the home visitation policy. Boys were initially housed in closed dorms. Once they had proven themselves trustworthy, they would be transferred to open dorms within the compound. Boys who showed high levels of trustworthiness would be permitted to work outside the compound. In some cases, boys were even permitted to reside outside the compound under the supervision of a care family. Interesting to note is that fewer than 1% of ten thousand boys given home leave during Paton's years at Diepkloof ever broke their trust by failing to return.

Paton volunteered for service during World War II, but was refused. After the war he took a trip, at his own expense, to tour correctional facilities across the world. He toured Scandinavia, England, continental Europe, and the United States of America. During his time in Norway, he began work on his seminal novel Cry, The Beloved Country, which he would complete over the course of his journey, finishing it on Christmas Eve in San Francisco in 1946.[1] There, he met Aubrey and Marigold Burns, who read his manuscript and found a publisher to publish it. The editor Maxwell Perkins, noted for editing novels of Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, would guide Paton's first novel through publication with Scribner's.

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