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The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena

Category: Contemporary Fiction
ISBN:   9781868429769
Publisher:  Jonathan Ball Publishers
On sale: October 2019
List price: R260
Format: Paperback
eBook ISBN
9781868429776 

The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena


Elsa Joubert


Poppie Nongena’s arduous journey covers 40 years of South Africa’s history, sweeping through the riots of Sharpeville, Soweto and Cape Town, on to an indefinite but unpromising future. The plot reflects the brutality and injustice of the Apartheid system, while Elsa Joubert’s characterisations reflects the courage and fortitude of people in the face of hardship and difficulty.

Poppie’s contented childhood in the Cape’s countryside came to an end when she married a migrant worker, and was forced by the authorities to move with him and their young family to the unfamiliar and bewildering city of Cape Town.

No sooner had she established her roots in the new township, when the laws changed and she was informed of her obligation to relocate to the Ciskei, her husband’s homeland. He, as a migrant worker, was permitted to remain in the Cape to work.

Over a ten-year period, Poppie fought the heinous ‘pass law’ system, winning limited extensions to the permit that would allow her to live and work in Cape Town and enable her to keep the family together and provide an education for her children.

Her own anger was shared by thousands and inevitably the brooding undercurrent of discontent exploded throughout South Africa. Suddenly, there were no further extensions. Poppie and her children were forcibly removed from their home and ‘resettled’ in a new township, hundreds of miles away near East London.

The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena is an epic tale of the endless adversity and struggle of a humble black woman under Apartheid laws. Poppie emerges from being a simple country girl to becoming an archetypal heroine of South Africa.


Elsa Joubert (1922 – 2020) was a South African novelist who, throughout her illustrious and prolific career, had been awarded the most prestigious awards for Afrikaans writing. Her novel Die reise van Isobelle (1995) was awarded the WA Hofmeyr and the Hertzog Prizes, while The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena – originally Die swerfjare van Poppie Nongena (1978) – was voted one of the top 100 books of the 20th century; in 2020, the novel was made into a film. Joubert is recognised internationally for her work: in 1980 she was the recipient of the Winifred Holtby Prize by the British Royal Society of Literature. In 2001, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Stellenbosch for her contribution to literature. Her final novel, The Hunchback Missionary, was published by Jonathan Ball Publishers in 2014.

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