Tram 83, Where Everything and Everyone is For Sale

“Tram 83 was one of the most popular restaurants and hooker bars, it renown stretching beyond the City-States borders” page 7.

In the novel Tram 83, by Fiston Mwanza Muijla, a 34-year-old writer, who was born and raised in Lubumbashi a city in southeast Congo, writes about two characters Requiem and Lucien living in this City-States and frequently visiting Tram 83. Fiston uses the two characters to venture into the society’s underbelly to test which of their methodologies to reality will eventually win. Will the unethical Requiem get his moral retribution? Or will the idealistic Lucien surrender to all the heaving reality?

Fiston makes the Congo appear socially and politically hopeless in chapter 26: Lucien and Malingeau: A uselessly Idiotic Pair, Fiston writes,

“The girls are like the mines which are like the railroads which are like the diggers which are like the students with their strike lacking timed longevity which are like their necktie-less pasts, an endangered species. But I admire the gaze with which they perceive life and death” (page 173).

In this quote we can see Lucien’s idealistic ideas melting away into moral retribution, with the patrons of Tram 83 perceiving life and death as if there is no difference. Each prostitute, mine worker, railroad worker, digger, and student living in the Congo are relieved that each day they are able to come to Tram 83 a home to them, because who knows what tomorrow will bring them. Throughout, the novel we see Lucien slowly becoming more like Requiem, slowly stripping away at his false reality to see that the Congo is immobilized by the higher political game.

The only thing hopeful about this text, is the spirit of Finston’s writing, the words and descriptions leaping off the page with energy. Rather than lecturing about the Congo, Fiston transforms cruel reality with a leaping imagination of a bebop-style, translated from the French version to English by Roland Glasser.

Fiston evokes the qualities of the city in all its deliriousness, spectacular riffs on everything from the underbelly-politics, the foreign visitors to the way the poor patrons of Tram 83 like jazz, because its considered classy. Every aspect of this novel is very scattered by the common reputation of the unfinished metal structure to the tips and prostitutes selling themselves, all of this is almost like a chorus of repeatedly saying, “Live for now, Carpe diem, Yolo”.

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