A lion on the landing: Memories of a South African youth


Author: Elsa Joubert

ISBN:  9780992239756

Published:  2014

Format: Portrait; 230mm x 150mm; Paperback

Pages: 401

Category: Autobiography

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.


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.