Towards silence: Thomas Mofolo, small literatures and poor translation

  • Alain Ricard
Keywords: African literature in translation, missionary publishers, Shaka, Thomas Mofolo


Despite having written three novels in the first decade of the 20th century, Thomas Mofolo has been largely ignored by historians of literature. The story of the translations of his novels, from 1930 onwards is that of misconceptions and serious misunderstandings. The originality and the complexity of the works discouraged closer readings and they were reduced to simplistic models. This article shows that Traveller to the East and Chaka are not as disparate as they were seen to be at the time. Possible similarities between Thomas Mofolo and Sol Plaatje are also explored. Truth and reconciliation are about reading Mofolo again, and celebrating his example as the first African novelist. Translation is a major step towards reconciliation.

Keywords: African literature in translation, missionary publishers, Shaka, Thomas Mofolo


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2309-9070
print ISSN: 0041-476X