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Author Focus

Elsa Joubert
Biographical info

Elsabé (Elsa) Antoinette Murray Joubert was born on October 19, 1922 in Paarl in the Western Cape. She finished school in 1939 at La Rochelle Girls' High in Paarl. In 1942 she achieved a BA degree and in 1942 a Higher Education Diploma, both from the University of Stellenbosch. In 1945 she completed a Masters degree at the University of Cape Town.

Thereafter, she was the women's editor of Die Huisgenoot from 1946 to 1948.

She then began to travel, and in 1957 her first travel book, Water en woestyn, was published. It chronicled her experiences in Egypt and Uganda.

Elsa Joubert's travels through Africa, South America and the Far East were reflected in her work in a unique way.

In 1963 her first novel, Ons wag op die kaptein, was published and was awarded, amongst others, the Eugène Marais prize.

She was awarded the WA Hofmeyer, CNA and Louis Luyt prizes for her important novel, Die swerfjare van Poppie Nongena (1978), which was crowned in 2002 as one of the 100 best books in Africa.

In 1981 the British Royal Society of Literature awarded her the Winifred Holtby prize, and she also became a Fellow of the Society.

Her masterly novel, Die reise van Isobelle (1995), was awarded the coveted Hertzog Prize.

Her life's work has been acknowledged with honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Stellenbosch (2001) and Pretoria (2007). She has also been awarded the Order of Ikhamanga (2004).

Did you know?

She married Klaas Steytler in 1950. He was the author of books such as Die walvisman and In die somer van '36 . In 1982, Klaas translated her novel Ons wag op die kaptein into English and titled it To die at sunset. He passed away in 1998.

Die swerfjare van Poppie Nongena was adapted into a stage play which was performed between 1982 and 1984 in various cities and countries - New York, the Edinburgh Festival, London, San Fransisco, Australia and Canada. It was awarded the Olivier Acting Award in London's West Wend, as well as the Obi Award for best script in the Off Broadway Theatre in New York.

In 2003, when author Justin Cartwright was asked by the Sunday Telegraph which novel, poem or play had made him cry more than any other, his answer was: "The long journey of Poppie Nongena."

Author bookshelf

Die reise van Isobelle,
Tafelberg (2011, reissue)
Melk, Tafelberg (2011, reissue)
, Tafelberg (2009)
Twee vroue, Tafelberg (2006)
Die swerfjare van Poppie Nongena, Tafelberg (2006, reissue)
Ons wag op die kaptein, Tafelberg (2005, reissue)


Eugène Marais Awards (1964) - Ons wag op die kaptein
CNA Prize (1971) - Bonga
CNA Prize (1978) - Die swerfjare van Poppie Nongena
Louis Luyt Prize (1979) - Die swerfjare van Poppie Nongena
WA Hofmeyr Prize (1979) - Die swerfjare van Poppie Nongena
Winifred Holtby-prys (1981) - The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena
WA Hofmeyr Prize (1989) - Missionaris
WA Hofmeyr Prize (1996) - Die reise van Isobelle
Afrikaans Onbeperk Award from the KKNK (1996)
Hertzog Prize for prose (1998) - Die reise van Isobelle
Patrick Petersen Memorial Prize from the ASV (2001)
ATKV Prestige Award (2003) - For her contribution to Afrikaans culture
Order of Ikhamanga in silver (2004)
University of Johannesburg Literary Prize; and Recht Malan Prize for English or Afrikaans Nonfiction or non-literary works for Reisiger (2010)
Louis Hiemstra Prize for non-fiction for Reisiger (2011)

List of titles

1957 Water en woestyn
1959 Die verste reis
1962 Suid van die wind
1964 Die staf van Monomotapa
1968 Swerwer in die herfsland
1974 Die nuwe Afrikaan: 'n reis deur Angola
1997 Gordel van smarag

1963 Ons wag op die kaptein (novel)
1969 Die Wahlerbrug (novel)
1971 Bonga (novel)
1978 Die swerfjare van Poppie Nongena (novel)
1980 Melk (short stories)
1983 Die laaste Sondag (novel)
1988 Missionaris (novel)
1993 Dansmaat (short stories)
1995 Die reise van Isobelle (novel)
2002 Twee vroue (novellas)
2005 'n Wonderlike geweld (autobiography)
2009 Reisiger (autobiography)

1984 Poppie - die drama (co-author Sandra Kotzé)

Children's stories
1985 Die vier vriende en ander stories uit Afrika


Ons wag op die kaptein (1963) English
To die at sunset, (1982)

Die swerfjare van Poppie Nongena (1978) English
The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena, (1980)
Der lange Weg der Poppie Nongena, (1981)
De zwarte dagen van Poppie Nongena, (1985)
  French (1981)
Spanish: Buenos Aires (1981)
Spanish: Madrid (1987)
Bulgarian (1982)
Hebrew (1987)
Italian (1987)

Die laaste Sondag (1983) English
The Last Sunday, (1989)

Die vier vriende en ander stories uit Afrika (1985) English
The Four Friends and Other Tales From Africa, (1987)

Die reise van Isobelle (1995) English
Isobelle's Journey, (1998)
German (2005)

Books By This Author