Uproar of the Congo

The novel, Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila, translated by Roland Glasser is based around the Congo with beautiful use of imagery of jazz music through language to illustrate the hardships and day-to-day lives of those trying to survive.

Mujila does a brilliant job at creating a story that engages the reader while writing characters that are not ones you would typically root for. His use of run-on sentences support his jazz symbolisms throughout the novel. Language is an important detail while reading his text. For example, Mujila writes, “mournful” eighty times in a row on page 181. In doing so, he pushes the theme of jazz music while using it to symbolize the struggle of the people living in the Congo. For they live their lives in a continuous motion. The repetition on the word can allude to the tiring work the people go through, daily. Like jazz, their lives are a continuous cycle of rhythm.

Not only does Mujila repeat a single word, but he also repeats the phrase, “Do you have the time” throughout the entire novel. We see this multiple times, and it is implying sex. The purpose of this phrase is another key use of language detail by Mujila. He repeats it to create a sense of reoccurrence and point out the bleakness and forwardness of the people. They are trying to make something out of themselves — like Lucien who wants to write a story — while also trying to survive in the City-State, which is unsafe and not well-maintained by the government.

While reading the novel aloud, you notice that you have to catch your breath many times due to run-on sentences. In doing this, Mujila sneakily references to the endeavors of those in the Congo. You can almost feel their battle for survival. It’s like they’re trying to pause and catch their breath, but they can’t because they have to move alongside this chaotic society.


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