Read of the Week

Illumination

Nthikeng Mohlele

Pan Macmillan

Review: Lindiwe Mlandu

Most music geniuses live their lives as virtual recluses, who only have something to say when they are on stage performing. We never hear about their personal lives or see them on social pages.

Bantubonke, who is the narrator of Illumination, is no different.

He is a world-renowned trumpeter but he is uncomfortable with fame and the intrusion that comes with it. He lives for music but wants to be invisible when outside of the studio.

He has a small group of friends but his beautiful wife, who serves as his muse, is studying in another country so he lives alone in one of the wealthy suburbs of Johannesburg.

Bantubonke is most comfortable when he’s blowing the trumpet or listening to classic jazz albums in his music room.

He struggles with human interaction. Most times he finds friendship to be burdensome. He is also not a good husband because he neglects his duties due to his obsession with music.

He is a loner, who sometimes tries to be there for his friends and wife, but fails dismally due to his nature and the fact that he lives inside his head.

Eventually he is betrayed by his muse and that makes him question everything. The pain that he suffers pushes him to the edge.

His whole life changes and he spirals out of control without anyone to turn to. His handling of grief or failure to confront it almost destroys him.

Nthikeng Mohlele, the author, weaves this story together beautifully.

It reads like poetry. It’s a story about music, the arts, friendship and love. And yet, he manages to touch on societal issues such as inequality, crime and farm murders.