Rape, drunkenness, murder, discrimination, prostitution, impulse, selfishness, insanity. What hope is left to a world abandoned by God, the only thing the people have left to turn to? What reason could Fiston Mwanza Mujila have for seemingly randomly inserting bible verses into his action scenes, some of which don’t even exist?
In the novel, Tram 83, Mujila uses the inclusion of bible verses in one particular action scene that are scattered and disorganized…but not completely. This is done to emphasize the truly God-ridden society of a place ransacked by amorality. Our protagonist, Lucian, a guarder of his precious merchandise, is on a trip near the scandalous Tram 83 when he’s held at knifepoint by a group of thugs ready to end his life.
“If you want us to spare your life, tell us where you’ve stashed the merchandise…” They came closer, pulling out their arsenal of daggers, knives, bayonets, slingshots, screwdrivers.
Letter of Apostles, chapter 5
Letter of Apostles, chapter 5 tells the story of jealous priests who imprison a group of apostles for unlawful reasons, but God sets them free. This directly correlates to the next part of the book where Lucian is imprisoned, but offered to be set free if he offers his sisters to the jailer as prostitutes. A holy deed has become a selfish, illegal, deviant bribe for a corrupt governmental employee. The contrast is striking, showing how far the world of Tram 83 has strayed from the light of God
The dogs continued to bark.
With the knowledge that the author, or Lucian however the reader chooses to interpret the narration, is aware of specific bible stories, including one that doesn’t exist (Revelation 30) begs the question: Why?
Mujila includes the frantic prayer in a time of stress as a metaphor for not only the absence of God in this city, but the illiteracy of its people and their indifference to religion. The people of Tram 83 are uneducated and uncivilized, rowdy and individual, and Mujila is commenting on the fact that some type of order, in this case religion, is necessary for a people to function in cohesion and community. Otherwise, they cling to what they wish they knew, spewing out futile prayers at the point of a knife being robbed for the little that they’re worth.
Being in support of or against religion makes no difference, anyone can understand and learn from Mujila’s deliberate decisions of including scripture in his text. He teaches us that wandering from virtue and order leads us down a grimy path of pickpockets and prostitutes, and not to be surprised when God turns his back on you.