Title: A LION ON THE LANDING – Memories of a South African Youth

Author: Elsa Joubert

Publisher: Hemel & See Boeke

Formate: Soft cover, 402 pages

ISBN 978-0-9922397-5-6

Price: R280,00



Elsa Joubert


Elsa Joubert is a renowned South African writer who, in her travels and her writings pursued her passion for uncovering the true Africa below the colonial veneer. In South Africa, she was already considered one of the great Afrikaans writers of the last century even before she catapulted to world renown in the eighties with her novel, The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena.


Her many other writings include travel books, novels and short stories, and she has received numerous other awards and honorary degrees.



A LION ON THE LANDING – Memories of a South African Youth


A Lion on the Landing is the translation into English of Joubert’s autobiography, ’n Wonderlike geweld: Jeugherinneringe, 2005. The new title acknowledges Joubert’s courage in exposing the truth about Africa in her writings. The epigraph is an excerpt from Page 2, when she is barely three years old:


Where the stairs made a turn, there was a dark, crouching lion carved deeply into the landing post, with open mouth, two fangs and two paws that wanted to tear free of the wood. She crept fearfully up the stairs with her back against the wall as far away from the lion as she could, and at the very top she looked down on the lion through the bars and laughed out loud with pleasure.


Joubert’s courage as a vulnerable woman in a patriarchal society is foreshadowed by the three-year-old Elsa finding pleasure in overcoming her fears. Indeed, a driving force throughout her life has been the passion to meet head-on the mysterious, hidden truths about the people of Africa. These were her lions to be mastered.


There is also a second autobiography that details her life from age 26, starting with her journey to Central Africa and down the Nile as a lone young woman, and going on to describe her life in South Africa and her further travels in Africa and abroad in the second half of the last century (Reisiger: Die Limietberge oor, 2009).


The present volume is about Joubert’s childhood and youth growing up in the staunchly Afrikaner community of Paarl in the Cape interior in the early twentieth century. She is immersed in a society that is focused on developing a unity through an exclusive language, culture, education and tradition. The rising Afrikaner nationalism would eventually lead to the National Party coming into power in 1948 and maintaining that position, together with the disastrous apartheid policies, for 35 years.


Joubert tells her story in simple language in the third person, and with a ruthless emphasis on revealing the "truth” of events as well as her feelings as a young girl; in the same spirit as she wrote the story of Poppie. It is a sensitive and detailed personal account with little judgment but rather emotionally laden depictions, leaving readers to draw their own conclusions about the will to form a cohesive political entity. Moreover, her development as a writer is detailed, beginning with her decision at an early age that she would write in support of South Africa and Afrikaners. The irony is that she would go on to speak up against the Afrikaner policies of apartheid in her writings. Her agony over this paradigm shift is described in her second autobiography.