The beloved author Elsa Joubert (born 19 October 1922) died on Sunday, 14 June 2020 of COVID-19 in a Mediclinic hospital in Cape Town. She was 97 years old.
Her memorial service was hosted online on Saturday, 4 July 2020. To watch the event, follow the link: https://vimeo.com/435700573/5fa4f63659. LitNet is publishing some of the tributes, each of which is a kind of time capsule in its own right.
Below is JM Coetzee’s contribution to the event.
Forty years ago, at a difficult time in my life, I was taken under the kindly wing of Klaas Steytler and Elsa Joubert. I visited them many times in their home in Oranjezicht, enjoying their hospitality, talking freely to them about life and literature, relaxing over a game of snooker (which I always lost).
Elsa had, not long before, published Die swerfjare van Poppie Nongena, whose impact on the Afrikaans reading public was still reverberating in the air. In retrospect we can begin to see what a profoundly important book that was. It would not be too much to say that Poppie caused a seismic shift in the conscience of well-meaning white South Africans, of whom there have always been many, and contributed hugely to the quiet abandoning of the sinking ship of apartheid.
With her wide experience of the world, her firm but generous moral sense, and her sharp, inquiring mind, Elsa Joubert represented the very best of the Afrikaans intellectual tradition. I am honoured to have been her friend.