Complex Collaborations: Esla Joubert's <i>The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena</i> and Zoë Wicomb's <i>David's Story.</i>


  • Jenny Siméus


Elsa Joubert, The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena, Zoë Wicomb, David's Story, collaborative autobiography, South Africa


This paper examines how South African author Zoë Wicomb’s novel David’s Story (2001) critiques collaborative life writing. More specifically, this paper argues that the faltering collaboration between the protagonists David and the unnamed amanuensis in David’s Story serves as an illuminating critique of past collaborative works such as Elsa Joubert’s The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena (1980) by shifting the focus from the end product to the collaborative writing process that precedes them. The analyses reveal that the fallability of language demonstrated in Wicomb’s novel serves as a reminder of the impossibility of the narrative project itself that the amanuensis and David have set out to work on. David's Story thus questions the reliability of story-telling and narration, as well as the notion of truth. Moreover, this paper argues that Wicomb’s novel highlights what can be  unequal power-relations between an amanuensis and an autobiographical subject in a collaborative process.

Author Biography

Jenny Siméus

Jenny Simeus is a PhD candidate at the Department of Languages at Linnaeus University, Sweden. Her PhD thesis explores South African literature that either is autobiographical in nature or deals with the process of collaborative autobiographical writing, while containin multiple narrative voices. She examines what happens to the self in texts where the subject is at the boundary between narrating and being narrated.