Friday, October 2, 2015

Review: TRAM 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila

Tram 83From the back of the book
n an African city in recession, which could be Kinshasa or Lubumbashi, land tourists of all languages and nationalities. They have only one desire: to make a fortune by exploiting the mineral wealth's of the country. They work during the day in mining concession and, as soon as night falls, they go out to get drunk, dance, eat and abandon themselves in Tram 83, the only night-club of the city, the den of all the outlaws: ex children-soldiers, prostitutes, blank students, unmarried mothers, sorcerers' apprentices …

Lucien, a professional writer, fleeing the exaction's and the censorship, finds refuge in the city thanks to Requiem, a youth friend. Requiem lives mainly on theft and on swindle while Lucien only thinks of writing and living honestly. Around them gravitate gangsters and young girls, retired or runaway men, profit-seeking tourists and federal agents of a non-existent State.

My Review
Tram 83 is a proverbial delicatessen of debauchery where mankind is mere meat readily and willingly consumable. 

James Ellroy would appreciate this writing style. The complex prose presents the reader with a puzzle pieced plot that gradually comes together, weaving its tale of self destruction through a foggy drug induced haze highlighting all the particulars necessary to depict poverty, sexuality, criminality, and the tedious boredom  that comes with a fallen high. Tram 83, the destination of the destitute is the biggest character in this unique novel and acts as the glue that binds its noxious narrative with author Fiston Mwanza Mujila not holding back on the evocative nature of the place-setting, its happenings, and its regular customers.  

Lucien, Requiem and an accompaniment of characters provide for a broader story that's difficult to fully realize due to the same-same nature of their dialogue yet, as Tram 83 (the place), is at it's core, a story in and above itself, I get the interchangeable nature of characters. That said, I would've liked more independence and distinguishable dialogue from one to another. 

TRAM 83 is a book to be savored, read slowly, and with an appreciation for the language.

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