History Comes to Life in Elsa Joubert’s New Novel The Hunchback Missionary
Jonathan Ball presents a new novel from Elsa Joubert, The Hunchback Missionary:
At a prayer meeting on a cold Rotterdam night, the young clerk Aart Anthonij van der Lingen – a pale, sickly, hunchbacked ‘fish from the North’ – is held in the charismatic Reverend Johannes Kicherer’s thrall. Lured by Kicherer’s passion, he leaves his grey and loveless life to land at the Cape of Good Hope as a lay missionary in 1800.
But when the Missionary Society draws lots to determine where to send the new arrivals, Van der Lingen is sent east and Kicherer north. The hunchback missionary must make his own way in a place that, on the surface, God has forsaken – until, as the pitiless landscape and the blank faces of his would-be congregants strip Van der Lingen incrementally of his pride, he learns that he has nothing to give to the Africa that is ultimately his salvation.
Based on historical figures drawn from the Cape Town Church Archives, The Hunchback Missionary is a sweeping narrative of vanity and humility, of the sacred and the profane, of how Europe’s rampant strides across newly colonised Africa led to the abyss from which a continent still struggles, today, to retreat.
About the author
Throughout Elsa Joubert‘s prolific career she has been awarded almost every prize for Afrikaans writing. Her novel, The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena, has also been voted one of the top 100 best books of the 20th century.