An ancient Chinese proverb states “life is art, and art is life.” Meaning one should take on daily life in a beautiful and artistic way. Often life and it’s ever changing eras can be compared to different symphonies or poetic moments. Fiston Mwanza Mujila author of Tram 83, does just that in his novel. Mujila is able to the reader on an exciting journey with the two main characters Lucien and Requim. He does so by exposing the realness of the people, life, and land in postcolonial Africa in a poetic/ melodious manner. He uses jazz rythms to help the reader picture a clearer image of what the land is like and to feel what life is like in the Congo.
From the beginning of the novel we are introduced with the quote “Do you have the time?” and it is continuously asked again and again all the way throughout by the prostitutes looking for a way to make their money. The significance of this quote goes far beyond just asking if the men are able to “do it”, I believe , that it’s meant to serve as making the novel more harmonious, to have it sound more musically written. Almost as if it were the main chorus to the song, which in this case would be the novel. If you read this novel at a fast pace out loud, you are able to hear the words come together and harmonize more like a song than a novel.
This theme is steady throughout the rest of the novel as well. We get to hear it through the long lists of things that Mujila is trying to describe, for instance, on page 203 of the kindle version, he talks about the many yet diverse individuals that go to Tram 83, in search of “good times on the cheap” (203). He lists “inadvertent musicians and elderly prostitutes and prestidigitators and Pentecostal preachers and students resembling mechanics and doctors conducting diagnoses in nightclubs and young journalists already retired and transvestites and second-foot shoe peddlers and porn film fans and highwaymen and pimps and ….all sorts of tribes overran Tram 83”. The way that this list just goes on and on and how it’s written, I believe is meant to be said in one breath. No pauses, just a continuous flow to cap on this poetic aspect of his and he does this consistently throughout.
Another very significant lyrical passage is on page 2568 of the kindle version, where Mujila is describing the Diva’s, “unreeled (a) song long and, mournful, mournful, mournful, mournful, mournful, mournful, mournful”..etc. This word is repeated over and over and over and over once more to create a song like sound. When you read this passage aloud you can hear the sadness and you can feel it more. Just as jazz music evokes emotion through the way things are sung and played, this novel is written with the same purpose. It is meant to sound lovely when read aloud to add to the feelings that Mujila wants to produce. He doesn’t just create the image of the real life of the Congo but he also makes us feel all the emotion that go with it.