Listen to the Cheeky Natives' Interview with Nthikeng Mohlele, Author of 'Michael K'
The author speaks about his novel, the writing process and his favorite writers.
Nthikeng Mohlele is a South African author who has thus far written five novels. His novel, Michael K, is a response to fellow author JM Coetzee's Life and Times of Michael K.
Nthikeng Mohlele sat down with Dr Alma-Nalisha Cele, co-host of the popular literary podcast, Cheeky Natives, which interviews Black authors about their bodies of work.
In the interview, he spoke about many things including his recent work, Michael K. Veteran novelist, playwright and poet Zakes Mda, described Mohlele's Michael K as "a work of reflective intensity, re-imagining character from JM Coetzee's world of stark and sparse prose".
JM Coetzee's novel tells the story of Michael K who sets out to take his ailing mother back to her rural home. However, she dies during the journey. Michael K is left alone in an anarchic world of ruthless armies. After he is captured and imprisoned, he escapes and attempts to live as best a dignified a life as he knows how.
Speaking on his response to Cotzee's novel in Michael K, Mohlele says:
"I think Michael K is the representative of the unsaid and the misunderstood. He functions primarily as a very metaphorical figure from where I am sitting. But it also speaks to a very silent thing, which is the interdependence of generations of thinkers and writers."
In addition, Mohlele also speaks about the writing process and the inspiration behind Michael K, the importance of young readers and writers reading contemporary works as well as some of his own favorite writers which include Niq Mhlongo and Zukiswa Wanner.
Asked about the myth of Black people not reading or buying books and the sometimes exclusionary world of publishing, he responded:
"There are commercial considerations, publishers are in business. There are policy issues in terms of your arts and culture department. I believe, humbly, that a lot needs to be done in terms of the promotion and support of the arts and policy that will enable writers to enter mainstream publishing. On Black people not buying books, that is untrue. That is a reckless statement. Black people read. I was taught by Black professors who referred me to a whole lot of other Black people."
Mohlele also shared a list of five books he would recommend to a young 16-year-old to read. His list included: Things Fall Apart by the late Nigerian great Chinua Achebe, Detained by the veteran Kenyan writer Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Kaffir Boy: An Autobiography by South African writer Mark Mathabane, the poetry of the late South African Professor Keorapetse Kgositsile and the works of the late Zimbabwean writer Dambudzo Marechera.
You can purchase Michael K here.
Listen to the full interview below: