Book Review – Pleasure: A Novel

Pleasure: A Novel by Nthikeng Mohlele (Picador Africa) ISBN: 9781770104853

Milton Mohlele is a writer who lives in Cape Town. He wiles away time hammering out a novel about pleasure, set in war-time Germany, on his late father’s typewriter. He is haunted by his father’s literary legacy throughout. Milton has an ex-wife and three lovers, whom he describes in exquisite prose and seductive sentences. But this is not a story about sex, or war, or a womaniser, or a struggling writer. It is profoundly complex.

When I began reading Pleasure, I thought it was autobiographical; that Milton’s voice was the author’s. The fact that they share a surname further fuelled confusion. Under this misconception, I originally thought the text self-indulgent and pompous.

Then there is the sudden ‘novel within the novel’ – Milton’s book about Giovanni, an American P.O.W, and Marie, the German who tends to him. Giovanni’s voice is American, but lapses into Milton’s poetic cadence. But as I became immersed in astonishing turns of phrase and recognised the multiple manifestations of the theme, I realised this book is compellingly crafted. Although I can’t describe what it’s ‘about’, it was a pleasure to read.

Deborah Minors