Fiston Mwanza Mujila is writing his novel Tram 83 as a “reaction[s] to the political turbulence that has come in the wake of the independence of Congo and its effect on day-to-day life” (211).
Mujila has created an undeniably irresistible novel, Tram 83, that showcases his world as “unfinished” through a fictional story that represents the belly politics present in post-colonial and post-independent Africa (2, 5, and many other instances in the novel).
“Unfinished” sounds like something that still needs to be completed. Something that is waiting to be finalized.
Belly politics refers to patron-client relationships and, to me, it makes me think of the corruptness of a government and its relation to its people that it oversees.
Belly politics, to me, sounds simple: hungry pigs. Pigs because I think of pork-belly pigs which makes me think of dirt that is under the belly of a pig- just like how the government of the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) is letting shady things happen under the radar just because they can.
Hungry because people in the DRC are either hungry for power or people hungry for food.
Regardless, belly politics is a corrupt form of running a country, but can be seen all throughout Mujila’s novel, Tram 83, in which the two main male characters, Lucien and Requiem, are experiencing firsthand. Lucien, the dreamy writer who is inherently a good person in life goes through this novel with the other main character, Requiem, who is the bad-boy gangster/pimp of the novel.
Requiem represents belly politics because he is pimping out girls in order to gain the money he needs to survive in the world he lives in: a clear example of patron-client relationships in which he provides his clients no-strings-attached sex for money. Now everyone is happy… right?….?
Mujila is showcasing the fact that everyone in the world of this novel is living in an unfinished society. Because of this, the repetitive “unfinished metal structure” (15) that is countlessly mentioned throughout the novel is a constant and clear reminder of the shady belly politics going on and the immense amount of poverty that follows with it. This is seen in the novel when the narrator states, “Does it serve any purpose in a country where you only eat every two days?… the guy found himself joining the ranks of the unemployed, like ninety percent of the Republic’s population” (171-172). This shows the poverty of the DRC and how most of the population represents geography of loss and geography of hunger when they are unemployed and can’t provide themselves or their families food for a couple days.
Mujila is exemplifying an unfinished world in this intriguing novel.