Literary Daybook, Jan. 11

Real and imaginary events of interest to readers.

Published January 11, 2002 8:00PM (EST)

Today in fiction

On Jan. 11, 1936, Celia writes to Gustavo that she is pregnant.
-- "Dreaming in Cuban" (1992)
by Cristina Garcia

From "The Book of Fictional Days"
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Today in Literary History

On this day in 1903, novelist and reformer Alan Paton was born in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa. The opening lines of Paton's most famous novel, "Cry, the Beloved Country" (1948), reflect his passion for the land of his birth, death and troubled hopes: "There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it " The novel was written with South Africa on the brink of apartheid and with Paton "in quest of a new nationalism based on love of one's land," rather than on fear of those sharing it, or there first:

"Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veldt with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing, nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much."

Paton died in 1988, while his novel was still, as Nelson Mandela put it, "a monument to the future." It is a future that Alan Paton's widow will view from a distance -- her 1998 letter to the London Sunday Times expresses her reasons for fleeing the crime culture in post-apartheid South Africa, and her thanks that her husband is not alive "to see what has happened to his beloved country."

-- Steve King

To find out more about "Today in Literary History," email Steve King.

By the Salon Books Editors

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