Nthikeng Mohlele’s second novel, Small Things, got a mention from JM Coetzee.
“Behind this story of love, music and the eternal quest, lies an artistic sensibility as generous as it is complex. The prose is rich in texture, the final effect melancholy and comic in equal proportions,” the Nobel laureate wrote.
Unrestrained praise, but then, over the past few years, Coetzee has been generous in his praise of young South African writers.
But it is quite easy to see why
Coetzee would admire Mohlele: both are obsessive about style and dogs. (Well, not really, but Mohlele’s new novel has a character whose two companions are a trumpet and a dog).
Scent of Bliss, his debut novel, came out a few years ago to widespread critical acclaim.
The Polokwane-born author grew up in Thembisa, on the East Rand, and was educated at the University of the Witwatersrand. A huge fan of Miles Davis (his son is named after the trumpeter), Mohlele is also obsessive about cars. Motor racing is “the only sport I can stomach”, he told me a few years ago.
What are you reading?
Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus. I am also rereading If I Could Sing, poetry by Keorapetse Kgositsile; and A Room Full of Mirrors, a Jimi Hendrix biography.
Where do you like hanging out?
Movie theatres and bookshops.
What are you playing in your car?
Sixto Rodriguez, Miles Davis and Zahara.
When you want to escape Jo’burg, which city do you like to visit?
I am at peace when driving across vast open spaces, under starry nights, anywhere in South Africa.
Which part of Jo’burg do you like?
The Newtown Cultural Precinct and period architecture in Jo’burg’s CBD.
What is your favourite food?
Spicy fish and prawns, with stir-fried vegetables, also pap and beef stews.
What is the last film that you watched that blew you away?
Lincoln or, alternatively, Life of Pi.
Wine or beer?
Dry red wine.
Cheese or chocolate?
None of the above.
Do you watch TV and what is your favourite show?
Yes, I like National Geographic. I am also a sucker for Top Gear.