Race, resistance and translation: the case of John Buchan’s UPrester John

03 Oct 2013

In postcolonial translation studies, increasing attention is being given to the asymmetrical relationships between dominant and indigenous languages. This paper argues that John Francis Cele’s UPrester John (1958), is not simply a subordinated and obeisant translation of John Buchan’s adventure thriller Prester John (1910), but a more complex form of textuality that is both oppositional and complicit with the workings of apartheid. Although Cele’s translation reproduces Buchan’s story of a daring young Scotsman who single-handedly quells a black nationalist uprising, it also ameliorates the novel’s racist language and assumption. Cele’s translation practice is examined in the context of apartheid publishing and Bantu education.