I find naming a “favorite” author a tough question to answer. My fiction likes have varied over the years. If I think on a novelist I have liked consistently for the longest, probably at the top of my personal favorites list sits Alan Paton (1903-1988), the South African anti-apartheid author of Cry, The Beloved Country, Too Late The Phalarope, and Ah, But Your Land Is Beautiful.
I suppose – given what I have composed – it is no surprise I greatly admired Paton’s ability, especially in Ah, But Your Land Is Beautiful, to produce “fiction” from history, and to create “fictional characters” based on real people. (Yet it is pretty clear as well to readers reasonably familiar with South African history of the 1950s, that, say, “Dr. Hendrik” in “Land,” is future apartheid prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd. Obviously there were times Paton’s “fictional” characters were meant to be easily identifiable, real people, as interpreted “fictionally” by Paton.)
After Land was published in 1981, Paton admitted that its white liberal politician, “Robert Mansfield,” was based on himself. “Mansfield” eventually emigrates to Australia as a result of the apartheid government’s harassment. The real Alan Paton never fled the country, but of “Mansfield” Paton told interviewers:
“I didn’t like him, so I sent him off to Australia.”
True, writing a novel in which a main character is based on yourself is not exactly groundbreaking. Yet, in that same novel, written by you, you do not like “yourself” all that much, so you send “yourself” into exile? Brilliant.