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Tram 83

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  978 ratings  ·  169 reviews
In an African city in secession, which could be Kinshasa or Lubumbashi, land tourists of all languages and nationalities. They have only one desire: to make a fortune by exploiting the mineral wealths of the country. They work during the day in mining concession and, as soon as night falls, they go out to get drunk, dance, eat and abandon themselves in Tram 83, the only ni ...more
Paperback, 210 pages
Published September 2015 by Scribe Publications (first published August 21st 2014)
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Average rating 3.36  · 
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 ·  978 ratings  ·  169 reviews

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Apr 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, dr-congo
A feverish burst of slam-poetry yelled in your ear over pounding music, so close and so loud you can practically feel the spittle hitting your face. Reading these dispatches from the sharp end of globalisation is like being hit by an undammed river of language – rhythmic, sinuous, dirty, improvisational, drenched in perspiration but also in inspiration.

The setting is a nameless ‘city-state’ in central Africa which exists in de-facto secession, run by a Kabila-like ‘dissident General’ busy exploi
If exuberance were key to great literature, this book would rank. This manic deluge takes the Western notion of a novel and puts it on a train out of town. One day it may circle back, or we may catch up with it, but we will all be changed by the journey. This is literature self-consciously desperate to join the club but having no earthly way to reconcile a reality crazier than fiction.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been sadly underrepresented when it comes to literature, but not because t
Sidharth Vardhan
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: booker, africa
In terms of quality of prose, this is perhaps best African book I have read. The atmosphere just explodes on paper from page 1 and sticks through out in form of noises made by prostitutes - whose presence dominate the background of the scenes of this book even more than it does for Game of Thrones. They are just one of many exploited sections of the society - forced-to-mature-early children, students, miners etc ; who, themselves, have learned to cheat others to survive. The exploiters - outlaws ...more
lark benobi
An overwhelming tumult of language, something like being pulled under by a big ocean wave and sent tumbling. The story itself was secondary to the feeling. It's a very male book. Also overwhelming was the endless stream of women's commodified bodies being described by their parts--women were defined in the story by what men see, what men touch. I was in turn riveted, repulsed, bored, amazed, wrenched around.
Dec 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019, modern-lit
I should have reviewed this earlier, but Christmas has intervened (and I couldn't resist starting one of my Christmas books) so I have probably forgotten some of what I might have said.

I picked this book up after it was chosen for a list of best books of the 2010s by my friends in the Mookse group (thanks Anto). I am not sure I would entirely concur, but it is undoubtedly fresh, lively and often funny. We don't tend to hear much about the so called Democratic Republic of Congo and this is the fi
[4.5] Proof that writing about a politically ravaged environment doesn't obviate spectacular prose. As one of the community reviews points out, great Soviet authors knew this. Yet much of the fiction from the Global South that's attracted Anglo-American attention in the last couple of decades has tended to the earnestly realist.
A few months ago, I decided that when I next posted about a recent book from an African country, I wasn't going to discuss it as "African literature" and its relation to
May 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: place, high-lit
I was in a Tram 83 once, and have sat in the corners, danced along the peripheries of others, a few times: the licentious, wild night clubs that spring up in conflict areas, safe spaces for divergent parties to co-mingle and co-drink, where no one knows how to spend the money gained through corruption and blood diamonds and emergency economies, but everyone knows they may as well spend it because tomorrow's not guaranteed. This book is generalized but so specific: it could be Lubumbashi, Goma, B ...more
191215: bleak, brutal- but boppin'boistrous. this is a picture of contemporary Africa, translated from French, about the titular club where all the action goes in the underbelly of an unnamed capital city, in a country whose wealth is in the process of unforgiving pillage. one character is an intellectual, therefore deemed useless by the other who is some kind of scam artist. the narrative wanders around, not really giving a story, but filled with character types- from underage prostitutes to do ...more
Charles Dee Mitchell
Nov 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary-lit
We read literature in translation to learn about other cultures. To learn the historical forces that shape them and the sensibilities that inform them. Reading these books broadens our knowledge of the world.

Tram 83 is really not that kind of book.

Fiston Mwanza Mujila is from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and there is every reason to assume that his novel takes place in some variation on the city of Lubumbashi, but this is not a sociological or historical narrative. Mujila drops the reader i
Mar 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, 2016-mbi
Nobody does squalor like Denis Johnson. Except...maybe Fiston Mwanza Mujila does. Both Johnson and Mujila are poets writing novels and both seem able to make you almost literally feel the dirt, poverty and debauchery of the places they describe. Tram 83 is not a wholesome place to be and a lot of the action (if that's the right word) in this book takes place in the titular bar.

It's not worth discussing the plot of this book as there isn't really much of one. It's not, in truth, about the plot. I
Jan 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Just up front: I am a friend of the publisher and a donor to Deep Vellum... So this review isn't exactly objective.

This book is great. It's like listening to /hearing Tropic of Cancer over a soundtrack provided by Kenny Dorham. And I say "hearing" because there is definitely an aural qualify to the text - I found myself reading it aloud at numerous points and walking around my house. I generally despise hype - but this books deserves the heaps of praise it has received.

The language - and I thin
World Literature Today
"Tram 83 is a lively, frenetic novel filled with a motley cast of characters lustful for pleasure, prosperity, and power. The novel itself has a musicality to it. The brief chapters, erratic pace, and stylistic elements—like repetition, for example—mimic the modes and rhythms of jazz." - Jen Rickard Blair, Digital Media Editor

To read this review in its entirety, visit World Literature Today online at
Dec 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All paths lead to Tram 83. No roads lead to the Northern Station without passing in front of the place. They felt some nostalgia as they walked past the Tram. The ambience was at its peak. Outside, people sat, stood, drank, ate, sang as one voice renditions of the Diva, danced, yelled, kissed, enticed the clients, hailed the baby-chicks, cursed, brawled, and demanded jazz in order to be on the same footing as the first-rate tourists.

“Do you have the time?”
Paul Fulcher
Tram 83 by the Congolese author Fiston Mwanza Mujila was translated from the original French into English by Roland Glasser.

The novel comes with a highly complementary introduction from Alain Mabanckou, with whose Broken Glass it shares many similarities (my review

The novel is set in the "City-State", the lawless capital of a rebel part of the country, with mining as the main industry - loosely based on Lubumbashi.

"The City-State is one of those territ
Chitra Ahanthem
Dec 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On the edge manic writing: a novel with a few characters steering away from a traditional plot line. But the narrative and the writing smacks you in the face and the guts. Set in an unnamed ‘city state’ somewhere in Africa that is run by the whims of a dissident General, the nightclub but almost brothel Tram 83 is where the greed and the despair and the cynicism of a country that exists in the way it does because of its mineral resources, is reflected in all its seedy and brooding glory.
There i
Danni Faith
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, 2019
This translation is spectacular! This novel is a triumph of language, sound, and movement. He captures exquisitely the overwhelmingness of living in a city; it's dirty, hopeless, fun, exhilarating, and holds all the lives and ambition of the tourists, residents, random passersby, criminals, politicians, lovers, and enemies.

I cannot recommend this novel/jazz album/political poetry slam piece enough.


How do you write about a country? Do you focus on a single character? A cast of characters?
Aug 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Tram 83 is a proverbial delicatessen of debauchery where mankind is mere meat readily and willingly consumable.

James Ellroy would appreciate this writing style. The complex prose presents the reader with a puzzle pieced plot that gradually comes together, weaving its tale of self destruction through a foggy drug induced haze highlighting all the particulars necessary to depict poverty, sexuality, criminality, and the tedious boredom that comes with a fallen high. Tram 83, the destination of the
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reading_africa
This book is a bit like watching a week long poetry slam, in strobe lights, in a Congolese mining town nightclub surrounded by women selling themselves ("baby-chicks" or "single mamas" depending on age group), miners (diggers), underage miner boys (slim-jims), the for-profit tourists and the second rate tourists. Everybody trying to get rich or get by depending on where you are in the social strata (getting out is just a dream).

As someone who likes being told a good story, this was hard to get t
Zaynäb Book  Minimalist
Welcome to Tram 83!

The author tells the story of Tram 83, a restaurant/bar/nightclub where everyone including miners, single mamas, baby chicks, writers, crooks, publishers congregates after a long, hard day of ripping off each other.

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

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
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it

One of the most enjoyable African literature I've read in quite a long time. And for those of you who've been following me for a while know that's as high praise as it gets! I don't want to give any spoilers because I'd love it if you guys picked this up. The gist of the book is.. two estranged friends, maybe brothers, as different as day and night... set in an unnamed African country, mostly likely the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mujila explores the modern Africa gold rush in a war torn count
Ksenia Anske
Oct 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Word circus and carousel and pinwheel, the type you can smell, a messy painting of a city with its inhabitants drenched in fluids of body and bottle and sadness and despair. And writing. And money. And sex. This is one dark and heady African carnival, this book.
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
A read like no other, Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila is a modern little jam about two frenemies meeting mostly in a bar that represents the Wild West of a small offshoot Central African city state run by a dictator and warlord, featuring a cast of characters both local and expat, as one tries to live by his principles and the other tries to undermine them. There was a lot to like about this book. I think it really captured a place and time and how it shapes the people that live there, and also, ...more
I'm not entirely sure what it is I just read. I'm not even sure how I feel about it. It was just...odd. And uncomfortable. And somehow dirty to the point where I want to scratch myself and shiver. There were some interesting moments in "Tram 83", and the repetition was both interesting, especially the "Do you have the time", as well as the change at the end from one of the baby-chicks saying she hates foreplay to saying she loves it, but at the same time there was a rather trippy quality to it. ...more
Kris McCracken
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
No. Didn't like this one at all. I don't mind an experimental or playful approach to advancing the narrative, but this one just seems gimmicky and confused. The novel comes across as a (relatively) unbroken stream of angry prose poetry, and I presume reflects the chaos and intensity of life amidst the modern Congolese gold rush, but it is just not a place that I want to be.

Extremely hard going.
Jul 18, 2020 rated it did not like it
I really couldn’t get on board with this book at all, it’s absolutely far from the kind of read I’m interested in, personally.

I think this book, whilst heralded and creative and linguistically playful, sacrifices a lot in order to play with structure, words, and poetic sounding prose. For me, it felt like we were walking around in circles whilst repetitively spouting thoughts and ideas that lost any sense of weight due to their existing in some sort of artistic vacuum. There’s a moment between a
Sep 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
"..."I trained as a historian. I think, unless I am mistaken, that literature deserves pride of place in the shaping of history. It is by way of literature that I can reestablish the truth. I intend to piece together the memory of a country that exists only on paper. To fantasize about the City-State and the Back-Country with a view to exploring collective memory. Historical characters are my waymarks. But baby-chicks, diggers, famished students, tourists, and..."

"I'm familiar with that view of
Remarkable writing. Far from social realism, although the raucous Tram 83 (the name of a bar, the social center of the mining town, apparently based on Lubumbashi in Southeastern DRC) is a place where everything is a transaction, everything is for sale and almost everyone is exploited (the come-ons from sex workers and demands for tips constantly interrupt the rest of the dialogue), and conjures up nicely a society in total breakdown, pillaged by "for-profit tourists" and torn apart into warring ...more
Jul 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Actively put forward as an antidote to the stately, realist tendencies of some early post-colonial African fiction, this is a novel from a highly promising author that seeks to distil the essence and madness of the central part of the continent and the issues it is preoccupied with. So, it’s a bang up to date, zany picture of boy soldiers, a colonial legacy with at least a thousand years still to run, up-on-your-feet music, prostitution, poetry, mineral mining and lawless politics. There are hin ...more
George P.
It grew on me some as it went along but not quite to a four-star level book. It was kind of original, I give it that.
Feb 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, kindle, africa, 2017
The joy of reading a book set in an unfamiliar territory lies in the way it moulds one’s perceptions and brings into form abstract notions of ‘life out there’. The rave reviews that Tram 83 managed to garner were understandable since the book was unique. Its feverish pace of narration, the cacophony and ambiance of the corrupt nameless ‘city state’ in which the novel is set, the fatalist approach of the citizens and the presence of underground mineral wealth and its impact on the dwellers were m ...more
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Fiston Mwanza Mujila was born in 1981 in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo, where studied Literature and Human Sciences at Lubumbashi University. He now lives in Graz, Austria and is pursuing a PhD in Romance Languages. His writing has been awarded numerous prizes, including the Gold Medal at the 6th Jeux de la Francophonie in Beirut as well as the Best Text for Theater (State Theater, Main ...more

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