If you didn’t understand the meaning of the book by page 180, Fiston Mwanza Mujila gives the reader a formal hint at his message on the very next page.
Flipping through the book for the first time when I bought it, something caught my eye that I had never seen in any form of literature before, and it’s one of the boldest authorial calls to ever grace the pages of history. And it worked. Nearly one full page of text that consists of a single word: Mournful.
The Diva, who was playing the role of a woman, against a background of prerecorded sounds, unreeled a song, long and mournful, mournful, mournful, mournful…(x80), and at the same time celestial (Mujila 181).
Following by describing the tram as “a convulsion of incompleteness” and a place with “time’s wasting, the thirst for archeology, solitude,” ushers in an understanding of the fictional tram that might not have been grasped before.
What could be Mujila’s reason for filling an entire page with the word “mournful” when describing a song sung in the tram? Well, it’s meant to be read aloud, or at least word-by-word in one’s head. Repeating the word for the eighty times it appears cannot fail to inspire a monotonous dread in your mind, a sense of waiting for it to be over, waiting to break free from an oppressive sadness. That is exactly Mujila’s purpose, to imbue the sense of helplessness and abandonment in your mind when you try to comprehend the situation of a place that has been truly left to rot in its own perversion. The people of the tram starve for meaning in life, or at least they would if their lives weren’t stricken with an impoverished plague of carelessness and prostitutes.
In reading his repetition of the word “mournful,” we are supposed to understand the minds of the colonized. The poor, underexposed and underpriveleged lives withering away at the hand of injustice. And from that, we may yet understand more about the people not given the same privileges as us.