Alan Stewart Paton (11 January 1903 � 12 April
1988) was a South African author.
He was born in Pietermaritzburg,
the son of a minor civil servant. His father was a
Scot who had emigrated to South Africa in 1895 and
his mother was the daughter of English immigrants.
After attending Maritzburg College, he studied a
Bachelor of Science degree at the University of
Natal in his hometown, followed by a diploma in
After graduating, he taught at a high school in
Ixopo, where he met his first wife, Dorrie, and then
at another school back in Pietermaritzburg.
served as the principal of the Diepkloof Reformatory
for young offenders from 1935 to 1948, where he
introduced controversial reforms of a progressive
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 of ten thousand
boys given home leave during Paton's years at
Diepkloof, less than 1% ever failed to return.
Paton volunteered for service during
World War II, but was refused. During this
time, 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
During his time in Norway, he began work
on his first (and arguably most famous)
novel, Cry, The Beloved Country, which he
would finish over the course of his journey,
finishing it on Christmas Eve in San
Francisco in 1946. There, he met Aubrey and
Marigold Burns, who read his manuscript and
found a publisher to publish it.
In 1953 he founded the South African
Liberal Party, which fought against the
apartheid legislation introduced by the
National Party. He remained the president of
the SALP until its forced dissolution by the
Apartheid regime, due to the fact that both
blacks and whites comprised its membership.
He was noted for his peaceful opposition
to the Apartheid system, as were many others
in the party, though some did take a more
direct, violent route. Consequently, the
party did have some stigma attached to it as
a result of these actions. He retired to
Botha's Hill where he lived until his death.
Among his works are Cry, The Beloved
Country (1948), Too Late the Phalarope
(1953), Debbie Go Home (1961), and Tales
from a Troubled Land (1965) (short story
collection). Cry, The Beloved Country has
been filmed twice (in 1951 and 1995) and was
the basis for the Broadway musical Lost in
the Stars (adaptation by Maxwell Anderson,
music by Kurt Weill).
The Alan Paton Award for non-fiction is
conferred annually in his honour.