Tram-83Geoff Wisner at The Quarterly Review:

For a country as vast as it is, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has not produced much literature. (Ruthless oppression and exploitation will have that effect.) Tram 83 may not be a novel in the usual sense—it is more of a francophone triumph of style over substance—but it is a welcome voice from that quarter, and a promise of lively works to come.

As the book begins, a young man named Requiem waits at a decrepit railway station for his old friend Lucien to arrive. Requiem and Lucien haven’t seen each other in years. A woman named Jacqueline once came between them in some never-explained way.

Lucien is the prototypical starving artist, dressed in black and furiously at work on his play, which a contact in Paris has promised to produce. Requiem writes a bit too, but he also makes introductions (he’s a pimp), moves “merchandise” (he’s a drug dealer, or maybe a smuggler), and exercises leverage over foreigners with the use of compromising photos (he’s a blackmailer).

Requiem’s most attractive quality is his genuine enthusiasm for the hookers who congregate in a nightclub called Tram 83. “Your thighs have the allure of a vodka bottle,” he tells one, and he gets incensed at Lucien for his indifference to the pleasures on offer.

more here.