Perfect Timing

Blog Post Tram 83

Africa is a land ravaged by the savage conditions of post colonialism and everybody is just trying to survive and keep the little that they have. One line that is used repeatedly in the novel, “Tram 83,” by Fiston Mwanza Mujila is people continually asking, “Do you have the time.” This has many implications throughout the novel but most notably it’s use by the ladies of the night in their search for clients. It is a universally excepted and established term throughout this novel representing the prostitution of ones body, selling sexual favors in exchange for money, but this got me thinking more deeply about the meaning of this phrase. It comes up in other places throughout the novel that don’t neccessarilly have anything to do with a woman selling her body but in all cases it has a unifying quality.

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I think the notion that this phrase is tying together is that of the belly politics that keep this world together. Every time this phrase is mentioned, it’s pertaining to something that isn’t quite right. “Do you have the time,” is a secret code used throughout the book by the various characters that occupy it’s pages to announce to one another that they are from the same place and live by the same rules. They understand the struggle and plight of their surroundings and situation and are making it clear that they live by the same standards which consist of doing whatever it takes to survive.

While this simple phrase is accomplishing all this within the text to help us to understand the relationship of characters among each other and the relationship of those characters to their environment, I think it’s also a tool being utilized by the author to unite the entirety of the story. This novel is written in almost a chaotic series of notes and tunes composing a symphony of something that’s not so much trying to tell a story but trying to paint a picture. It’s kind of abstract at times and jumps around and, “Do you have the time,” is a phrase that grounds the reader and reminds them of the things they are supposed to be focused on, which is how decrepit and corrupt the nation has become and how people have to deal with that in their everyday lives.


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