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Nthikeng Mohlele Lists His Influences, from Rihanna to Jonathan Franzen, for Traveling Marla’s Book Club

Rusty BellNthikeng Mohlele’s latest novel Rusty Bell was featured in Traveling Marla’s Book Club in August, and in the accompanying Q&A the author fielded questions from readers from all over the United States.

Traveling Marla’s Book Club, created by Marla Sink Druzgal, focuses on African literature:

Each book is a unique story, told in a fresh, original voice, giving some insight on life in the places I’m traveling and living. Each book represents a piece of culture, history, or slice of life from a different part of the world.

Druzgal says she chose Rusty Bell because “I knew would challenge even the most avid readers to push through one of the most unreliable narrators I’ve ever read, and wow did they come up with some strong questions”.

Jessica Kinnison asked Mohlele about his influences, and the author’s answer indicates an impressive reading (and listening) list:

Clinton K the cat reminded me of Haruki Murakami’s story Kafka on the Shore, Michael’s relationship to Dr West reminded me of Tom Robbins’ novel Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and nearly every Woody Allen movie, and Columbus’ death by laughter reminds me of a stunt Gabriel Garcia Marquez might pull. What artists do you consider to be a part of your “tribe” as an author?

Mohlele: My fiction has, stylistically, a musical nature – emanating from poetry – rhythm, rhyme, metaphors. Naturally, recording artists plays an important role in my set tone and where I improvise with narrative and theme selections. So: Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Ali Farka Toure, Salif Keita – and guess what, Rihanna too! But literature is also very much a cerebral occupation, bolted to the ground by many genres and sub genres – in other words, the mode of thinking and framing of ideas. Here, “kindred spirits” would include Wole Soyinka (who is a brilliant all rounder), Albert Camus for is masterful in tackling existentialism and the absurd, among other preoccupations, JM Coetzee for bone clean prose and word economy, Shakespeare for metaphor, Rainer Maria Rilke for the emotive and the profound, Javier Marias for narrative mapping and sentence complexity without loss of clarity, Dambudzo Marechera for pathos, Zadie Smith for humour, Jonathan Franzen for family dynamics, Milan Kundera for interpretative speculations, the Holy Bible for distilling the profane, and Zukiswa Wanner for the unexpected, Thando Mgqolozana for memorable characters, and George Orwell for narrative details. Artists I enjoy are many and varied and, evolve all the time. They include, musically; for instance, pianists, vocalists, drummers and guitarists: Jimmy Cobb, Larry Page, Jimmy Dludlu, Angus of ACDC, Jill Scott, Simphiwe Dana, and Sibongile Khumalo, amongst many others.

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