It’s no longer news that Congolese Fiston Mwanza Mujila has won the highly-celebrated 2015 Etisalat Prize for Literature. Mujila, who is also on the Man Booker International Prize Long-list, won with his novel ‘Tram 83’. He spoke with ADEOLA OGUNRINDE on the 2015 Etisalat Prize, why he wrote ‘Tram 83’ and why the novel story was set in a bar patronized by prostitutes in Congo…
What was it like publishing Tram 83?
Tram 83 is my first novel but before that I have been writing short stories and plays.
Your novel can be described as an allegory about Congo and you set it in a bar where prostitutes come in, why did you choose that path to tell the story of your country?
I wanted to exploit the mind as it relates all over the world, the way we think. Tram 83 has Congo in mind but it’s a universal theme.
What is your view about dictatorship during the era in which the novel was written especially Mobutu Sese Seko’s government?
I don’t know how to explain this because the book is not like mathematics. I can’t say Mobutu inspired me 80 percent or 60 percent. It up to you, journalists, to draw your conclusions on the book. Literature does not have boundaries. I have read Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Adichie. I have also read a lot of French authors. When you read these authors you don’t know who inspired you more or who inspired you less.
What do you think about African literature?
African Literature is doing well, African writers are winning prizes. There is also a literary dynamism in Africa, which is very important, from Noviolet Bulawayo’s “We Need New Names”. There are Africans who live in Africa who write and those who live abroad who also write.
What do you think about the Etisalat Prize for Literature?
It is a very important prize for Africans, whether in Europe or Africa. The prize also supports the publishers by buying their books. Etisalat prize also offers visibility for the writers as they get to know a lot of readers. The prize is the biggest prize on the continent now.
You are on the Man Booker International Prize Long-list, how do you feel about this?
I am happy because I think I have been compensated.