The experience of the passage of time and our attempts to remember the past is central in Elsa Joubert’s Die reise van Isobelle (1995) (translated in English as Isobelle’s Journey). In this novel memory and the importance of remembering is contemplated. The novel starts with the end of an era (the Victorian era – described as an era of “innocence” of which we can only recognise the “pattern” afterwards) and closes with the end of an era (the end of apartheid). The ending of two eras draws attention to the passage of time. Remembering the past is a flawed process, often brings a sense of loss, but also contributes finding a way of looking towards the future. In this article the problems with remembering and forgetting is traced in the novel, but also how memory brings new possibilities to confront an uncertain future of which the patterns are not yet discernable. The novel deals specifically with autobiographic memory and the way in which this kind of memory contributes to morality. Ways in which memory can be employed to engage meaningfully with the current situation are indicated.
This article was published by Prof. Willie Burger before he joined the University of Pretoria