Cry, the Beloved Country
by Alan Paton
Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge
Alan Paton was on a European tour when he started writing Cry, the Beloved Country. He started off in England, as the South African delegate of the International Conference of the Society of Christians and Jews. Then, he went to Sweden to take a tour of prisons (probably of interest to him thanks to his work at the juvenile detention center of Diepkloof).
On a side trip to Trondheim, in Norway, he visited the Trondheim Cathedral. Inspired by Norway's evergreen forests, which made him homesick for the very different landscape back home in South Africa, Paton wrote the first paragraph of Cry, the Beloved Country (Source.)
Paton was definitely not just an armchair liberal. After publishing Cry, the Beloved Country, his international fame gave him a voice in South African politics. He continued to lobby for equality as a representative of the Liberal Party until it was dissolved in 1968 by the apartheid government for encouraging racially mixed politically gatherings. (Source.)
Paton also testified for the defense at one of the most important criminal trials in South African history: the Rivonia trial of 1963 and 64. This trial was named for the Johannesburg suburb where a lot of members of the ANC (African National Congress) were hiding out from the apartheid government. It was this trial that put the great anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela in prison until his release by the last prime minister of apartheid South Africa, F.W. de Klerk, in 1990. (Source.)
During Paton's testimony at the Rivonia Trial, the prosecution accused him of being a "Communist" and a "fellow traveler," who may have called for violence in his resistence to apartheid. Despite all of these random, totally untrue accusations, Paton stuck to his belief in the importance of peaceful protest against apartheid. (Source.)