Well-known author dies at 97

Elsa Joubert

Tributes are pouring in for literary giant, Elsa Joubert, who died on Sunday.

According to reports, Covid-19 related issues claimed the life of the 97-year-old Afrikaans author who lived at Berghof retirement home in Gardens.

Her well-known book Die Swerfjare van Poppie Nongena, (The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena) told a story of the life of a black woman under the brutal laws of the apartheid system. The book was translated into 13 languages and voted one of the top 100 best books of the 20th century. It has been recently turned into a film.

According to South African History Online, Ms Joubert was born on October 19, 1922 in Paarl where she grew up, and studied at the universities of Stellenbosch (BA and SOD) and Cape Town (MA in Afrikaans-Nederlands).

Within two years of starting a career as a high school teacher in Cradock in the Eastern Cape, she became editor of Die Huisgenoot (1946-1948) and thereafter a full-time writer.

Ms Joubert received an honorary doctorate from the University of Stellenbosch in 2001 for her contribution to literature.

She was married to the late journalist and writer, Klaas Steytler. She is survived by two daughters, Elsabe and Henriette, and her son Nico.

She has been described as a pioneer, who was ahead of her time. “She successfully conveyed her political message to her own people – something that other Afrikaans writers have avoided. Apart from the cultural and political dimensions of her political dimensions, her work has always been characterised by a powerful human element; in her own words: The farthest journey is from man to man, through the heart,” posted Eloise Wessels, CEO of NB Publishers.

Western Cape MEC of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Anroux Marais, said the Western Cape, and South Africa, have lost another big voice in the literary world with the passing of writer Ms Joubert.

“She was a woman of strength in Afrikaans literature who continued to publish many works and was also awarded with the Hertzog prize. Poppie was also recently adapted to a movie and received high praise for the story which still resonates with audiences today.

“The Western Cape has sadly lost a number of important figures in the Arts and Culture environment over the past few weeks. They have all played a role in opening spaces for others to continue building on their legacy and we must continue celebrating their work,” she said.