Of Walking & Remembering

Two translated works – one on the Camino, and the other a touching and wise memoir of days in a retirement complex – are worth a read.

Two non-fiction translations to take note of recently appeared in English. Erns Grundling’s bestseller Elders, about his experience of the pilgrims’ walk, the Camino in Spain, was just published in English as Walk It Off.

And the doyenne of Afrikaans literature Elsa Joubert, author of the breakthrough novel Poppie Nongena and now in her late nineties, published Cul-de-sac, the translation of her award-winning memoir that appeared in 2017 in Afrikaans as Spertyd.

Erns Grundling: The Interview

Why did you write a book about your Camino trip?

I never intended to write a book about my Camino. In fact, I wanted to get away from writing, as I was suffering from heartbreak and burnout and depression when I travelled to Spain. I was also really terrible with deadlines.

However, I had so many meaningful moments and wonderful experiences on the Camino, and I met several lovely pilgrims from all over the world.

When I arrived back in Cape Town, I realised that perhaps I have a story to share; that might even inspire others to also walk it off, whatever it may be.

The fact that I had a digital-free holiday made the writing challenging. I had a lot less raw material to work with, but I also think I remembered everything more clearly because of the lack of digital distractions.

Did you find South Africans few and far between on the Camino?

When I walked my first Camino in 2015, there were already hundreds of South Africans doing the Camino every year.

It has increased even more during the past two years. South Africans love the Camino: it is safe, affordable, the scenery is beautiful, and you make many friends along the way.

How has your life changed after the trip?

There were some significant changes in my life since I walked the first Camino. I met a wonderful woman, Catharien, and we are very happy together.

I published my first book, Elders (the Afrikaans version of Walk It Off), and it became a bestseller. I returned to Spain to shoot the travel series Elders: Die Camino for kykNET.

And last year, I travelled to Japan to shoot a second Elders travel series. It will be on kykNET and Showmax in July, with a new book also on the shelves by September.

Can one do the trip even if you are unfit?

Absolutely, although it is not recommended. I started both my Caminos rather unfit.

Luckily, the route isn’t too demanding; the terrain is mostly gravel roads. The first week is rough with aches and pains, but you learn a lot about yourself, your body and your pain threshold.

And when it really gets tough on the body, you gradually learn to just walk it off!


Cul-de-sac by Elsa Joubert


by Elsa Joubert’s 

Completed at the age of 95, Spertyd, the original Afrikaans memoir Elsa Joubert wrote of her years in a cosmopolitan Cape retirement home, was so well received and awarded that it was recently translated into English to make it available to a wider audience.

The book is an absolute pleasure to read. Written with the intelligence and wisdom that comes with age, it also looks at life in general and life in a retirement complex with a wise and sometimes wry sense of humour.

Read it, you won’t be sorry.

Words by Irna Van Zyl