Vice and Progress

Bangladesh RamadanFiston Mwanza Mujila, author of Tram 83, paints a vibrant and viscerally colorful image when he penned the nightlife of an impoverished City-State of the African Congo. Throughout the novel’s telling, the reader is introduced to a variety of characters all indicative of various aspects of livelihood that exists throughout such a rich, and untapped source of potential. The physical location of Tram 83 in the novel, is one in which people from all walks of life in the City-State, come together to indulge in drink, sex, violence and art.

The many personages of such this kind of place, are culminated in the various characters, namely Lucien, Requiem, and Malingeau to cover the major archetypes. Lucien is a character that is the closest thing to a hero that the novel has, though he fails to live up to any expectation that a hero might strive towards. No, the heroic nature of Lucien is solely in his capacity for hope. He doesn’t have any desire to endorse the wrongs propagated by the General, even going so far as to state, “I don’t have a penny, and even if I did, I hate informing, corruption”(138). Even when given a simple out of a terrifying imprisonment in a country far removed from a fair trial, he holds true to integral parts of his character in hopes of influencing some good into the darkness of the city-state.

Requiem however, is the polar opposite of Lucien. He has come to expect the absolute worst in all things, whether it is people, the government, or the future of Africa as a whole. He exploits anyone he can with impunity, seeking advantages at every turn to further cement his own survival. His resignation is articulated as, “Poverty is hereditary just like power, stupidity, and hemorrhoids. It’s even contagious this locomotive life”(182). Where Lucien sees potential in a dreary world, Requiem merely sees chances to harm others to further his own indulgence in momentary pleasures, the only thing he considers of any true value.

It is this crippling indulgence of pleasures, that ultimately ham-strings the people of the City-State. Their lives are inherently miserable and so they seek raw, unadulterated pleasures in the moment to function just another day. They seek out music, sex, food, the only things that they have access to within their immediate reach. While understandable, this shortsightedness is what leads to the endurance of such a corrupt, and exploitative government. This is one of the cruel truths that runs beneath the surface the entirety of Tram 83, that the only pleasures the citizens of the City-State can indulge in, strictly prevents them from considering their futures beyond tomorrow.

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