The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena
was voted one of the hundred most important books published in Africa during the last millennium, and has won three major South African literary awards - the W A Hofmeyr Prize, the CNA Literary Award and the Louis Luyt Prize. Although it is a work of fiction, the novel is based on a
true South African story.
A woman approached the author for help and advice, when the Cape Town riots played havoc within her life and family, during the apartheid regime. After two years of
discussion and careful, probing questioning, the full story of Poppie's difficult and disturbing story emerged and the novel was born. Elsa Joubert has been scrupulous in presenting the authentic details that give the work its substance and which resulted in such a remarkable and insightful story. Her novel is an unsentimentalised celebration of the human capacity for survival and the tenacious spirit that is Poppie.
Poppie's contented childhood in the Cape 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 her family together and provide an education for her children. Her own anger was shared by thousands and inevitably the brooding under-current of discontent exploded throughout South Africa: first in Sharpeville, then in Soweto and finally in the Cape.
Suddenly, there were no further extensions. Poppie and her children were forcibly removed from their home and 'resettled' in a new and raw
township, hundreds of miles away near East London.
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