Category      : Literary Translator’s Award

Author           : Bridget Theron-Bushell

Book              : Die Dorsland Trek/The Thirstland Trek


The book deals with a period of South African history from 1874-1881, but the subject matter is one that has been grossly neglected in South African literature. The historical account weaves a tale (historically accurate) of a tapestry of inhabitants of all races and cultures during the time. As such, not only the story of the “trekkers” is told, but also that of all the other people that participated in this fascinating part of history.

Since the source material comprises of a number of languages, the original Afrikaans version of the book already contained a vast amount of translation. Special attention was given to the problematic issue of place names. Not only do place names tend to change over time, but at any given moment there are multiple spellings, and often different names (in terms of language) of places. The author notes that for purposes of uniformity, the current (modern) place names have been used in the work but the different and older names are also often provided for the reader’s edification.

The translation itself is of such a standard that if we were to have consulted the two versions (Afrikaans and English) without knowing which one is the translation, we would have thought that the English (translated version) was the original. This is not an easy task to achieve, especially when dealing with non-fiction, since the translator does not have many creative options to help with the flow of text, while trying to keep faithful to the original. The translator manages an accurate and surgically precise translation which is unmarred by idiomatic inconsistencies and flows naturally.

The book promotes nation building through a better understanding of our shared history. Its appeal, being a historiographic work, will transcend time and be of nearly universal appeal for anyone interested in the history of South Africa.