Two millennia may have elapsed since Pliny the Elder noted that something new always comes out of Africa. As far as novels go, though, his judgment still holds just as true now. The best African stories during the past generation (all that great river of wonderfully lush, vivid prose which followed Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart) have been consistently new in form and structure, as well as disconcertingly new in their unsparing, unflinching approach to tragedy and horror.
Tram 83 proves the point once more. Its story is spiky, quirky and edgy. The eponymous tram, itself a nightclub, restaurant and "hooker bar", offers refuge and recreation to an ever-swelling band of rascals and scoundrels. We are not in Studio 54 territory anymore. Tram 83 is notionally placed in a residual government zone in a sprawling, lawless city in one of the Congos. The sole redeeming feature for this neighbourhood seems to be that its rebellious hinterland, the Back-Country, is even more appalling.
In reality, though, we are conveyed back to the heart of darkness once again, the one Joseph Conrad explored on the Congos' great river. Take, as only one example among many, Mujila's description of a railway station, "the only place on earth you could hang yourself, defecate, blaspheme, fall into infatuation, and thieve without regard to prying eyes".
Mujila is only 34 years old and this is his first no ... Read Full Review