17 July 15 | Kaija Straumanis

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by Caitlin Thomas on Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila, translated by Robert Glasser, and published by Deep Vellum.

Caitlin is one of our interns at Open Letter this summer—which, effectively, is the first summer in a long time that 2/3 of our interns haven’t been named “Hannah.” (Which—hi, Hannahs!)

Here’s the beginning of Caitlin’s review:

Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its effect on civilian lives. His first novel, Tram 83, is the story of Requiem, a gangster rapidly gaining power and influence in a fictional, dystopian African city and his friend, Lucien, a writer who visits him and is sucked into Requiem’s corrupt empire and the city’s outrageously extravagant, filthy-glamorous nightlife.

The title refers to Tram 83, a nightclub where wealthy tourists, gangsters, miners, and prostitutes (ranging in age from 12 to “ageless”) go every night, all night. The Tram is what holds the crumbling city together—where Requiem, his cohorts, and the city’s prostitutes peddle to wealthy tourists from around the world. The nightclub is also famous for its jazz music, in particular the Railroad Diva, a hugely talented jazz singer, whose spellbinding performances prompt the patrons to simultaneously lose control of every bodily function, fall in love, despair, and rejoice. The Tram’s jazz music elevates the nightclub to more than a Sodom-and-Gomorrah-like pit of debauchery while simultaneously keeping everything in check.

For the rest of the review, go here.


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