KNOCKING ON THE DOOR: Shorter Writings by Alan Paton

KNOCKING ON THE DOOR: Shorter Writings

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This remarkable anthology of short stories, poems, essays and speeches by the author of Cry, the Beloved Country is a gold mine for biographers, amateur psychologists, and admirers of the South African writer. The writings run the range from Christian hope of overcoming injustice to deep feelings of paralysis and sterility. The speeches and articles often refer to martyrdom; the poems range from a humorous treatment of political self-censorship to the extraordinary 1946-47 ""The Prison House,"" a powerful statement of the so-called Bettelheim syndrome of identifying with the oppressor. Paton's short stories, many of which, like the poems, were previously unpublished, are oddly callow by comparison. Among his subjects are a failed general, a white child saved from a cliffside accident by an Indian and a black, and a ""gentle little man"" in Durban whose ""All-Races Party"" beliefs are mocked by non-white militants and white racists alike. This last predicament is developed in the essay ""Pinky,"" which in effect mournfully says we South African liberals are gutless, but those who leave are more so. Paton is stronger, by contrast, when he affirms that apartheid is not simply immoral but its compartmentalization of experience hampers life and art. His literary criticism focuses on English-language and Afrikaaner writers; in 1931 he commends the vitality of poet Roy Campbell but suspects his ""superlative egoism"" and hopes Campbell will become more ""national""--in 1974 he regrets that Campbell turned into a philosophical fascist with his cult of primitivism, aristocracy, anti-Communism and violence. As for the South African novel, it should be ""a revelation, not of something [South Africans] don't know, but of something they do know. . . ."" A singular collection, both celebrating impotence and struggling against it.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Scribners