➸ [Reading] ➺ Prester John By John Buchan ➭ – Multi-channel.co

Nineteen Year Old David Crawfurd Travels From Scotland To South Africa To Work As A Storekeeper On The Voyage He Encounters Again John Laputa, The Celebrated Zulu Minister, Of Whom He Has Strange MemoriesIn His Remote Store David Finds Himself With The Key To A Massive Uprising Led By The Minister, Who Has Taken The Title Of The Mythical Priest King, Prester JohnDavid S Courage And His Understanding Of This Man Take Him To The Heart Of The Uprising, A Secret Cave In The Rooirand


10 thoughts on “Prester John

  1. says:

    Published in 1910, this story about a Zulu uprising in South Africa as experienced by a young Scottish immigrant, is a good read, in the spirit of Rudyard Kipling or H Rider Haggard adventure in the furthest outposts of the British Empire.But what makes this book worth reading is how many things the author takes for granted that we now know aren t so, and even find distasteful The racism of the book is shocking precisely because it is so casual and thoughtless, the innate assumption of superiority.It makes me wonder what people a hundred years from now will think of our popular fiction, our popular movies What do we take for granted that they will find odd, and perhaps even distasteful You can already see some obvious candidates in things that are still accepted, but barely, like smoking How curious it is to see a movie in which everyone is puffing on a cigarette for example, in Good Night and Good Luck, where Edward R Murrow is shown delivering prime time television news with a cigarette smoking between his fingers.What will people think of our enormous steak dinners and obese portions of food That s on the cusp of changing What will they think of our profligate use of fossil fuels Our assumption that the American way of life will go on forever, just as it is, much as the British thought their empire would go on forever What about our assumptions about unlimited technological progress Will science fiction visions of star flight or the Singularity seem as quaint as the White Man s Burden There s also a particularly sweet class of novel that is on the cusp of awareness of a profound change in social s, but one that doesn t quite have the courage of its convictions the proto feminism of Anthony Trollope s Can You Forgive Her And there s the delight to be found in one that explores the nuances of a change as it is unfolding, like Virginia Woolf s To The Lighthouse.This is why I love old literature it provides a dimensionality to who we are, who we have become, and who we might become The human spirit is the same, but the forms with which we express it do evolve Understanding what people took for granted in the past that just ain t so helps us to accept the possibility that we too are subject to change.


  2. says:

    I first read about John Buchan a few years ago in an article entitled G.A Henty and the Tradition of Adventure Writing for Boys by Martin Cothran You can read it here I recommend it highly even if you don t have boys the first reading of The Thirty Nine Steps my husband and I have fallen in love with the John Buchan.Graham Green said that John Buchan was the first to realize the enormous dramatic value of adventure in familiar surroundings happening to unadventurous men It s totally true and it is so easy to identify with the characters They don t really long for a good scrap, but they re courageous and wise when stuck into the middle of one Synopsis from a John Buchan website Prester John 1910 was based upon Buchan s experiences in South Africa It is the story of a Scots lad, David Crawfurd, who travels to South Africa in the turn of the century seeking his fortune after his studies are interuppted by his father s death Dark deeds and treacherous intrigues are afoot at the lonely trading post where he is assigned by his employers and these are bound up with the mysterious, ancient African Kingdom of Prester John David stumbles on to the key to the mystery and becomes involved in the ensuing warfare Of course it s much than that I suppose that Prester John would be called dated today as would many of Buchan s books, I suppose John Buchan was very nationalistic but not in the nasty way we think of that phrase today He loved his country and wasn t afraid to say so Anyway, he was also a product of his times in some ways, such as the idea that the White British Male was pretty much the bomb However lame that may seem to us today, he really doesn t write it that way He had a very healthy respect for all people, he just saw them in different ways than perhaps we do today Buchan was a Christian and wrote Christian characters who believed in grace and works There isn t a lot of religion, per se, but it underlies the characters compositions Prester John was a very fun read It was counted one of those schoolboy favorites way back when We d like to resurrect Buchan in the states, as he isn t very easy to get a hold of for decent prices So far most of the Buchan books we ve read can t really count as life changing, but if you need thrilling, adventurous stories without a trace of garbage in detail or creed Buchan s a great one to go for Some favorite quotes But behind my thoughts was one master feeling, that Providence had given me my chance and I must make the most of it I looked on the last months as a clear course which had been mapped out for me Not for nothing had I been given a clue to the strange events which were coming It was foreordained that I should go alone to Umvelos , and in the promptings of my own fallible heart I believed I saw the workings of Omnipotence Such is our moral arrogance, and yet without such a belief I think that mankind would have ever been content to bide sluggishly at home God had preserved me from deadly perils, but not that I might cower in some shelter I had a missionI had been saved for a purpose, and unless I fulfilled my purpose I should again be lost David wins the day and at the age of 19 becomes a fabulously wealthy young man The wealth did not dazzle so much as it solemnized me I had no impulse to spend any part of it in a riot of folly It had come to me like fairy gold out of the void it had been bought with men s blood, almost my ownI saw my life all lying before me and already I had won sucess I was a rich man now who could choose his career, an dmy mother need never again want for comfort My money seemed pleasant to me, for if men won theirs by brains or industry, I had won mine by sterner methods, for I had staked against it my life I sat alone in the railway carriage and cried with pure thankfulness And by the way, he does much good with his cash


  3. says:

    Find my spoiler free introduction to Prester John, my Buchan of the Month for January 2019, on my blog John was John Buchan s sixth novel, written seven years after he returned from South Africa where he served as as one of Lord Alfred Milner s Young Men It s described as a boys story and certainly fits the bill as a tale of adventure and daring deeds There are narrow escapes, breathless chases, clever disguises, secret allies, a dastardly villain and coded messages As the Literary Innkeeper from The Thirty Nine Steps remarks on hearing of Richard Hannay s adventures, By God it is all pure Rider Haggard and Conan Doyle John Buchan endows his hero, David Crawfurd, with a young person s sense of adventure and seemingly tireless energy along with some of his own interests, such as hiking and mountaineering the latter proving useful for a perilous escape at the end of the book They also share an appreciation for the landscape of Scotland and South Africa and, as you would expect from Buchan, there are some glorious descriptions of the scenery As the sun rose above the horizon, the black masses changed to emerald and rich umber, and the fleecy mists of the summits opened and revealed beyond shining spaces of green One of Buchan s favourite books, The Pilgrim s Progress by John Bunyan, also makes an appearance, as it would again later in Mr Standfast and Sick Heart River.So far, so good However, it is difficult for a modern day reader even a John Buchan admirer like myself to overlook the racial stereotyping, colonialism and outdated paternalism that pervades Prester John This becomes even problematic when one considers Prester John was a book aimed at young people likely than not, boys.As I noted in my previous introduction piece about the book, Janet Adam Smith, Buchan s first biographer, attempts to argue that, in Buchan s portrayal of African leader, John Laputa, he is depicting a battle not so much between black and white but as between civilisation and savagery Unfortunately it seems fairly obvious that the book associates the savagery as emanating from the native people and the civilizing influence as the white man s duty At the end of the book, David Crawfurd reflects That is the difference between white and black, the gift of responsibility, the power of being a little king and so long as we know this and practice it, we will rule not in Africa alone but wherever there are dark men who live only for the day and their own bellies I appreciate these words were written in earlier times but still they rather turned my belly.David Daniell describes Buchan s representation of John Laputa in Prester John as being like a black Montrose with his military skill, high charisma and religious vision It is true that David Crawfurd develops a curious admiration for Laputa as a specimen of a leader, whilst at the same time feeling it his duty to try to prevent what Laputa is seeking to achieve In fact, David s admiration seems to stem partly from the fact that a black man could possess such leadership qualities As events play out, David remarks, I had no exultation of triumph, still less any fear of my own fate I stood silent, the half remorseful spectator of a fall like the fall of Lucifer Even writing in 1965, Janet Adam Smith concedes that the references to blacks and n s in Prester John will be found offensive today I m not sure that pointing out, as David Daniell does, that the terms are used only twice and three times respectively makes the situation much better Therefore, whilst Prester John is, in one respect, an exciting, well told adventure story, on this rereading I found myself less able to overlook the problematic attitudes in the book.


  4. says:

    John Buchan writes an exciting, fast paced thriller which is full of his love for the Scottish and African landscapes His hero, David Crawfurd, is a million miles away from the hero of modern movies he gets tired and hurt to the point that he cries, and there s never any suggestion that he s invulnerable As a relaxing read to pass the time I would give this four stars But It s a great big But Prester John was published in 1910 and its attitude to issues of race is appalling But is this the attitude of Buchan or of his characters The first example of racism that took my breath away was a description of an African preacher by a twelve year old Scottish boy A nigger, he said, a great black chap as big as your father, Archie He seemed to have banged the bookboard with some effect, and had kept Tam, for once in his life, awake He had preached about the heathen in Africa, and how a black man was as good as a white man in the sight of God, and he had forecast a day when the negroes would have something to teach the British in the way of civilization So at any rate ran the account of Tam Dyke, who did not share the preacher s views It s all nonsense, Davie The Bible says that the children of Ham were to be our servants If I were the minister I wouldn t let a nigger into the pulpit I wouldn t let him farther than the Sabbath school pp 13 14 That s obviously the twelve year old speaking, and not Buchan But the next one is in the words of the narrator, nineteen year old David I blush to day to think of the stuff I talked First I made him sit on a chair opposite me, a thing no white man in the country would have done Then I told him affectionately that I liked natives, that they were fine fellows and better men than the dirty whites round about I explained that I was fresh from England, and believed in equal rights for all men, white or coloured God forgive me, but I think I said I hoped to see the day when Africa would belong once to its rightful masters pp 102 103 I m pretty sure God would forgive David for saying that he supported African majority rule, but that isn t what David is asking forgiveness for For him the idea of Africans ruling themselves, and sitting with white men as equals, is preposterous Again, is this Buchan or his character The reason I wonder this is because the Rev Laputa, David Crawfurd s African adversary, is the real hero of the book He is the Prester John figure after whom the book is named I can imagine the book being rewritten to make this clear, in a time when an African man calling on God to help him free his people wouldn t be seen as so appalling He prayed prayed as I never heard man pray before and to the God of Israel It was no heathen fetich he was invoking, but the God of whom he had often preached in Christian kirks I recognized texts from Isaiah and the Psalms and the Gospels, and very especially from the two last chapters of Revelation He pled with God to forget the sins of his people, to recall the bondage of Zion It was amazing to hear these bloodthirsty savages consecrated by their leader to the meek service of Christ An enthusiast may deceive himself, and I did not question his sincerity I knew his heart, black with all the lusts of paganism I knew that his purpose was to deluge the land with blood But I knew also that in his eyes his mission was divine, and that he felt behind him all the armies of Heaven pp 126 127 So, could Buchan be writing a story about an African hero, whose heroism is partly disguised by the prejudices of the young narrator I could argue that right up until the end of the book, in which the narrator writes about the white man s burden in such Kiplingesque terms that I can t help but think he s reflecting the mind of his creator I knew then the meaning of the white man s duty He has to take all risks, recking nothing of his life or his fortunes, and well content to find his reward in the fulfilment of his task That is the difference between white and black, the gift of responsibility, the power of being in a little way a king and so long as we know this and practise it, we will rule not in Africa alone but wherever there are dark men who live only for the day and their own bellies p 238 So, only two stars for Prester John, for the writing and the heroism of Laputa I m glad to have read this, but I don t think I ll reread it.


  5. says:

    My fascination with John Buchan is growing thin Prester John still has all the means of inspiration for the boy adventurer acts of bravery told with a controlled and admirable dose of modesty, detailed strategies made on the fly, acknowledgement of missteps and miscalculations always righted through sheer will, and a straightforward mission that doesn t leave the young hero room for doubting his sense of right The only problem is that Buchan s love fest with the white man s gift of responsibility and his scoffing at the misguided, then dastardly, idea of African for Africans doesn t hold And I m not just talking about 21st century readers with views enlightened by history or reflection, or even those of his contemporaries who took issue with this view Change the race, the history, the planet even and it still doesn t hold Buchan went to some lengths to create a worthy adversary in Laputa, the man who would take on the mantle of kingship for Africa and easily lead the masses to take back their land And, given that it s a simple adventure story, he did a pretty good job with Laputo, so much so that you trust and admire him for all but a few moments of perfidy The purported hero, young David Crawfurd, admires him, too, and longs to follow him at times, were it not for his evil plan to deny Africans civilization oh, and his somewhat paganistic strain of Christianity Unless the reader is predisposed to assuming that dark men who live only for the day and their own bellies are incapable of rule and that burning powder should not be a part of any Christian rite which, of course, his intended audience was you never get any very convincing argument for why Laputo and his uprising should be put down For anyone who might not have noticed, this is pretty much the same plot as Greenmantle the ignorant, easily swayed masses of the Arabs Africans, although filled with some good people who could be set right, are a tinderbox just waiting for one great leader and by crushing that one leader inevitably someone who has reached such heights by long study in the west everyone will just settle down I guess it worked for Buchan as an easy to convey scheme from which to weave a story, and he did a much better job with it in Greenmantle Me, I think I ll take a break from Buchan for awhile He s definitely inspired me to spend time hiking and scrambling up and down rocks, even without the satisfaction of putting civilization to rights.


  6. says:

    John Buchan, best known as the author of The Thirty Nine Steps, wrote about 27 other novels and a great deal beside I picked this up at random because I liked the edition which includes some illustrations and I like the myth of Prester John It is or less a Boy s Own colonial African adventure story, in the mold of H Rider Haggard A young Scotsman goes off to South Africa to try to establish himself as a merchant A mysterious black African preacher who our hero had observed in some distinctly un Christian behavior in his hometown some years before coincidentally turns up on his southward ship A plot is revealed and foiled Colonialist racial attitudes are in full effect.


  7. says:

    Prester John is the story of David Crawfurd, a young scotsman who is sent to South Africa for work, and becomes embroiled in uprisings of the native black South Africans against the whites I love Buchan s writing style It s terse but expressive, compact, so that a massive amount of detail is present in a short space His descriptions are wonderful, with language that is sometimes startling and always original.One warning Some of the attitudes and language of the book might come off as racist to the modern ear There s talk of the white man s burden , etc That was just the way things were back then You ll have to look past some of that if you want to enjoy the book.


  8. says:

    John Buchan writes adventure stories like none other i.e superbly well The story of Prester John may be as politically incorrect nowadays as most of H Rider Haggard s output but that doesn t prevent the pace, imagination, content, and sheer descriptive brilliance of his storytelling from totally wrapping up and enthralling his 21st century reader This is a book that I prefer to read in hardcopy mine is a pocket sized Thomas Nelson green cloth hardback of 1945 first published in this series 1938 It s printed in a visually pleasing typeface not identified The frontpiece verse is a charming in memoriam compliment to I think Sir Lionel Phillips, 1st Baronet 6 August 1855 2 July 1936 who was a South African mining magnate and politician Time, they say, must the best of us capture,And travel and battle and gems and goldNo can kindle the ancient rapture,For even the youngest of hearts grows old.But in you, I think, the boy is not over So take this medley of ways and warsAs the gift of a friend and a fellow loverOf the fairest country under the stars JB


  9. says:

    As a schoolboy in the 1960s I remember the thrill whenever our English teacher Mr Hogan, a bearded man with an American accent, came into the classroom and said get out your Prester Johns boys I was probably about eleven years old, and hearing this book read aloud was one of the rare pleasures of the school day However, I could remember nothing of the story, so I have just re read it The first thing that must be said is that it makes an unquestioning assumption of the superiority of the white man in Africa, and is filled with casually racist remarks about the blacks which strike an unwelcome note in today s world Even the book s single Portuguese character does not get away without some racial slurs on the Portuguese race Putting this to one side, the book is a boy s adventure type narrative, very well done, in which the nineteen year old Scottish protagonist is constantly put into tight spots captured by murderous Kaffirs trapped in a cave from which the only escape is by a death defying rock climb, etc and extricates himself by a mixture of luck, bravery, skill, and sharp wits I enjoyed the ride.


  10. says:

    John, darling I wish I could travel back in time and shake that racist imperialist nonsense out of you, because then we d have a cracking boy s adventure story, right up there with Stevenson s Treasure Island and Kipling s Kim You are one of my favorite storytellers anyone who reads Ian Fleming, Ken Follett or Jeffrey Archer should know your books The 39 Steps and John McNab areEdwardian entertainment at its best And Prester John You brilliantly mix the medieval myth about the great Nestorian Christian king with the British fear of a pan African uprising You also have a wonderful teenage hero, intrepid, impulsive You add a gorgeous setting and for a touch of excitement, you throw in the Queen of Sheba s fabulous ruby necklace You even like and admire John Laputa, the leader of the uprising Damn, damn, so close to perfection Interestingly, Rider Haggard does just the same in his King Solomon s Mines Someone needs to write a thesis on British authors love affair with the Rousseau inspired noble savage of Africa.