Okadabooks Reviews: Welcome To Tram 83, Hell On Earth!

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FISTON-MWANZA-MUJILA-ALTA“Your neighbor sells doughnuts, you also start selling doughnuts, and you even dabble with black magic to nab all his customers.”

Welcome to Tram 83!

Hell on earth, the only place where dog barbecue and rat barbeque is an expensive and delicious delicacy.

This book tells the story of Tram 83, a restaurant/bar/nightclub where everyone including miners, single mamas, baby chicks, writers, crooks, and publishers congregate after a long, hard day of ripping each other off!

The author tells the story in a style that speaks magic, his words bring to life the odd people and life in Tram 83 itself.

Although, this novel revolves around the lives of Lucien, an idealistic writer, and his room-mate Requiem, local thief (crook, kidnapper, mover of merchandise, scammer) it also include stories of weary miners, unpaid civil servants and unemployed college grads, drifters, drug dealers, hookers, baby-chicks, underage girls who, like everyone else, are just trying to keep alive.

Set in a violent and destructive Democratic Republic of Congo era, the author turns Tram 83, a remarkably boring place, into a perfect reading experience by paying attention to the people he meets and the stories they tell.

This is an incredible book- dense prose but still a super captivating story about life in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a writer’s walk through it.

This book is different from other African literature books out there and I really can’t blame my friends for describing it as pointless fiction.

If you are used to reading mainstream African literature, you might end up reading this twice just to understand the complex usage of words and rhythm. The style of writing made the plot hard to follow, including changes of voices narrating without clear indication.

Also, I found the commodification of women bodies and the description of baby chicks and hookers a bit repulsive. At a point I was annoyed, bored, amazed and sometimes even disappointed.

This book is a fascinating read but definitely not for everyone.

Just like NPR says, “your admiration for the novel will be highly influenced by your tolerance for experimental, relatively plotless/pointless fiction.”

Rating: 3.5/5

Available Now: TRAM 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila (Deep Vellum Publishing)

Update: Tram 83 has been longlisted for the “Man Booker International Prize 2016” and shortlisted for the “2016 Etisalat Prize For Literature Award”


Pictures by: pontas-agency.com and Zaynab Quadri respectively

IMG-20160205-WA0005Written by Zaynabtyty Quadri
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Okechukwu Ofili is the author of 3.5 books and writes political satire for the BBC/RNW What's Up Africa show. He is also the founder of okadabooks.com and blogs daily at ofilispeaks.com.

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