According to her family, the 97-year-old writer died on Sunday in Cape Town due to Covid-19 related causes
While she has written a number of travelogues, novels, and short stories, Elsa Joubert’s most famous work is Die Swerfjare van Poppie Nongena (The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena) which has been translated into 13 languages, has been produced as a play, and most recently turned into a critically acclaimed, award-winning film directed by Christian Olwagen and starring Clementine Mosimane.
The book tells the story of a black domestic worker’s life during apartheid and the relationship she has with her employer.
Joubert’s work has won numerous awards and she is said to be one of the most recognised Afrikaans authors in the country. The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena won three significant South African literary awards including the W A Hofmeyr Prize, the CNA Literary Award and the Louis Luyt Prize.
Just three years ago, at the age of 95, Joubert’s final book was released entitled Cul-de-Sac – a memoir which detailed her life after the death of her beloved husband, and coming to terms with old age, including the loss of independence and the changes in her physical abilities.
“Elsa Joubert played a major role in opening narrative spaces for the stories of women in South Africa,” said a tribute released by Western Cape Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Anroux Marais. “She was a woman of strength in Afrikaans literature who continued to publish many works and was also awarded with the Hertzog prize.”
After the news of her death, there was an outpouring of love on social media. Her legacy will live on in her written works:
The award-winning political fiction “Long Journey of Poppy Nongena” is as important today as when it was first published. ~D #racism #capeRead https://t.co/m0cNihPIv0 #RIPElsaJoubert #COVID19inSA @AfrIsGroot @OpenBookFest @Taalraad @GovernmentZA https://t.co/8OCho2aDWw
— Cape Town 😷 (@CapeTown) June 15, 2020
Die ATKV neem met leedwese kennis van die afsterwe van Elsa Joubert. Joubert sal waarskynlik die beste onthou word vir die boek “Die swerfjare van Poppie Nongena” wat in 1978 verskyn het. Lees gerus meer oor haar lewe en werk: https://t.co/BfZbdIuVTi#Afrikaans #skrywer pic.twitter.com/j6FzMP9IjT
— ATKV (@ATKVSA) June 15, 2020
Elsa Joubert het groot voetspore in Afrikaanse literatuur getrap. As joernalis en skrywer het sy nie geskroom nie om met groot deernis mense se verhale te vertel en waarheid aan die lig gebring op ’n baie aangrypende manier. – @AnnelieLotriet https://t.co/WNVSgg6pzG
— Democratic Alliance (@Our_DA) June 15, 2020
Iconic SA author Elsa Joubert was ‘a pioneer – ahead of her time’ https://t.co/07xRjHJ6lW
— Ferial Haffajee (@ferialhaffajee) June 15, 2020
— CURTLY🇿🇦 (@curtlystevens) June 14, 2020