Review: Vivien Horler
Cul-de-Sac– a memoir, by Elsa Joubert (Tafelberg)
This poignant memoir, first published in Afrikaans when Elsa Joubert was 95, is an exploration of extreme old age.
It is a time of life, she writes, which almost represents “the laying down of dreams”, where the only road that can be ventured on “with a minimum of anxiety is the road to the past”.
The Afrikaans version, published under the title Spertyd, came out two years ago. Spertyd means deadline; the English term for cul-de-sac is dead end; and the Afrikaans version that we grew up with was “straat loop dood”. Of the various alternatives, cul de sac seems gentlest translation.
Yet old age is not gentle. As the title suggests, you’re not going anywhere. At one point Joubert describes old people as being members of the “last shift”. Life’s options progressively close down.
And yet in the hands of a a writer as accomplished and reflective as Elsa Joubert, her memoir is not discouraging; it is rather a glimpse of another stage of life, if we live long enough to get there. Or as someone once said: old age is what happens if nothing else does. Continue reading