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Title:'The examined life': Alan Paton as autobiographer
Author:Alexander, Peter F.ISNI
Periodical:The English Academy Review (ISSN 1753-5360)
Geographic term:South Africa
About person:Alan Stewart Paton (1903-1988)ISNI
Abstract:This article provides an analysis of the autobiographical impulse in Alan Paton's writings. What little scholarly discussion exists of Paton's role as an autobiographer has naturally focused on his formal autobiography, 'Towards the mountain' (1980, New York). However, this article argues that the autobiographical impulse is a major part of the consciousness of every sensitive person, and is universal in Paton's writing. This impulse was not confined to formal autobiography, but was a vital part of Paton's life and character. It shows in everything he wrote, and even determined the books he chose not to write. The analysis includes such largely neglected works as 'Kontakion for you departed' (1969, New York). But it also examines the autobiographical impulse in Paton's novels, and in his under-appreciated poems. Further, it traces in his biographies of J. H. Hofmeyr and Archbishop Clayton a strongly marked tendency to use the lives of his subjects as a way of examining his own interests and the history of his country. Perhaps most strikingly of all, the autobiographical impulse is shown as having caused him to abandon his plan to write an important biography of South Africa's greatest poet, Roy Campbell. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]