In Buzzing Hemispheres Urayoan Noel gives us a sort of freed, free verse, a gaping universe of open verse, one that conforms to no form, abides by no conventions, flows in and out of cracks, suffers no fools and is apparently a fan of David Bowie.
I think we often forget that poetry is not prose and therefore cannot and should not fulfill the functions that a narrative might attempt to. Poetry doesn’t tell us a story, it tells us a feeling, it doesn’t speak in sentences, it speaks all in breath, sometimes holds that breath, without the help of punctuation, only to let it all out again in a rambling waterfall of syntax. Poetry is a novel deconstructed into only its most basic feelings; it is an autobiography on acid sitting in a dark room mumbling into a tape recorder.
If poetry attempts to paint a picture then Noel’s is holding a brush in both hands. It is pictorial, descriptive, sensory and alive. It is words as 8-bit characters stamped on a page. It is an old mac running DOS, typing coded language horizontally,
:img :img :img :img and so on and so on and on.
¿Qué diablos es esto?
I don’t know but I like the way it feels.
If art is meant to imitate life, then Tram 83 is art imitating art—imitating life. The prose of Tram 83 imitates jazz music in its improvisational tone and jazz, an art form that is predominantly improvisational, imitates the often uncalculated and seemingly chaotic nature of our existence. This is an important stylistic element because it frames the story in ways immediately relatable to most readres. The style of prose Mujila uses—at the same time long winded, fragmented, and unconscious— mimics the musical styles of jazz and also the experiences of Lucien and Requiem. There is a thread found in the similarities of jazz and Mujila’s prose that connects the reader to the characters, the characters to the rhythm of the story, and the rhythm of the story back to the reader. In doing so, Mujila asks the reader to feel more connected to his characters, Lucien in particular. Improvisation as a literary device often manifests in a stream of conscious narrative and we have seen other authors, Joyce for example, employ this type of narrative as a way to suggest the fluidity of thought, and therefore of narrative text.
In jazz music we find aspects of musical fluidity much like its literary equivalent found in Tram 83. Mujila’s sentences are not rigid, they don’t have a set form, and they certainly are not neat or traditional in their formatting. The prose seems able to be one thing for a period of time and then a completely different thing altogether. Many sentences run on endlessly like when Lucien is describing Requiem’s alias’ (26). If jazz were made out of sentences, and it is really, then these would be those sentences. Jazz creates the feeling of having no definite beginning and no definite ending point—it resides in the now, without boundary or restraint. Often, it feels as if it might just go on infinitely. Essentially, both jazz and Tram 83 lack definitive structure. These structural elements, or lack of them, are important when we consider where the novel originates. Belgium and France colonized much of West Africa including the Democratic Republic of Congo, and although the DRC gained its independence in 1960, remnants of the colonizers oppression remained a staple of life in West and Central Africa. Mujila, a native of the Congo likely uses these techniques to challenge the colonial discourse he undoubtedly experienced as well as a more traditional authoritative narrative style. This is important because by doing so, he asks the reader again to examine more deeply the history of the novel’s setting and the context of its characters situations which in turn them to connect with the text more intimately.
Money might not be able to buy happiness, but it certainly can buy a lot of things that make life a lot easier—and isn’t that the same thing? That’s an important question that we should be asking ourselves. Is easier always better? When, if ever, does ease become detrimental? Can ease beget boredom and if you’re rich and bored how long before you’re also a rich, bored sociopath? Ahmed Khaled Towfik gives us a glimpse into questions like this in his novel Utopia. The narrator, inhabiting a world where he wants for nothing exemplifies this idea saying, “What do you do in this artificial paradise? You sleep, you take drugs, you eat until food makes you sick, you vomit until you recover the enjoyment of eating, you have sex…” (9) The ruling class of people in Utopia don’t demonstrate real human emotion. According to the narrator they don’t feel love, compassion or even hatred toward the poor class of people they have destroyed or toward each other. They have bought their way into a sort of emotional complacency and degradation of the human psyche—They can buy everything but feelings. The dictionary defines a sociopath as someone who has extreme antisocial attitudes and behaves with a total lack of conscious. What is Ala if not a sociopath then? What, if not money and the lack of connection with reality that comes with it, has made him this way? Is it an exaggeration used to drive the plot of a science fiction novel? Sure. However, t’s also important social commentary on the moral bankruptcy of the super-rich and how cruel humans can be which is terrifying in an age when things once thought to be science fiction are now reality.