Such strong, accomplished fiction has lately come out of South Africa (Nadine Gordimer, Christopher Hope, Wessel Ebersohn) that it is good to be reminded of the patriarchal position in ethical South African letters of Alan Paton. Thirty years after Cry the Beloved Country, this new novel, with its ironic and grieved title, will serve as that reminder--even if, as a book, it has been eclipsed in style, subtlety, and savvy by later writers. In its substance lies the interest: Paton, mostly with montage, chronicles the period of 1952-1958--the South African Congress Movement's Defiance Campaign of non-violent protest (personified here by a brilliant young Indian girl, Prem Bodasingh); the rise of the multi-racial, anti-apartheid Liberal Party (led by an educator here called Robert Mansfield); the brave ""Freedom Charter"" of 1955; the police raids that rounded up hundreds on grounds of treason in 1956; the ascendancy of Verwoerd in 1958 that was supposed by Afrikaners to restore everything to its placid, whites-first place. But because Paton jumps about so quickly--closely involved politically himself at the time, he often seems to substitute knowledge for narrative--it's hard to hold on to any of these bitter tastes for very long. Still, one aspect is especially striking: how well Paton presents the blind, all-pervasive fear of the Afrikaners--be it a foul-mouthed sender of hate-mail who signs herself ""Proud White Christian Woman"". . . or the Afrikaner establishment reacting with absolute mortification to the miscegnation arrest of one of its rising young ideologues. And though there's little imaginative, artful fiction here, Paton's close-in familiarity with the period and its range of experiences will command the attention of all those with an interest in how South Africa came to its current crisis situation.