Promising debut novella

2008-12-31 00:00

Nthikeng Mohlele has written a novella which shows much promise. It follows the life of Q, a lecturer in English at Good Hope University in the fictional town of Lumumbaville.

Q is introspective and searching for a sense of meaning, especially as he doesn’t believe his mother told him the truth about his real father.

He finds his muse in a butchery which was once a jazz record store called My Kind of Jazz. Bernice works among the carcasses and her inscrutability keeps Q spellbound. She captivates him with her elusiveness as surely as the butterflies he likes to hunt.

When she disappears suddenly, his life is changed irrevocably. Just before she left, though, she told him she was carrying his child. Five years later he finds Bernice again, as well as the grave of his daughter who’d been adored by all. But Bernice still eludes him. His emotional search for meaning culminates in a physical collapse which is finally defined as manic depression. The future holds little hope, except for a possibility of comfort from an unlikely source.

Mohlele writes intelligently with an original turn of phrase. His studies in literature have paid off. The story moves along with broad strokes however. Five years are covered in a short phrase. A crucial character’s death warrants only a few sentences. His next novel needs to dig deeper into the events which affect his central character, but The Scent of Bliss is a promising start.

Janet van Eeden

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