Fiston Mwanza Mujila: Welcome to the Deep Vellum Family!

Fiston Mwanza Mujilla Graffiti

It is with the utmost pleasure that I announce that Deep Vellum has signed Congolese author Fiston Mwanza Mujila‘s debut novel TRAM 83 for North America from Pontas Literary & Film Agency to be the lead title for our Fall 2015 list!

TRAM 83, a picaresque novel set in a nocturnal, wild and quixotic Kinshasa, is the lead title of the rentrée litteraire of the prestigious French publishers Éditions Métailié, who acquired the rights a year ago after being blown away by Mwanza’s literary talent and force. TRAM 83 will be published in France in Summer 2014, and Deep Vellum expects to publish it in English translation in September 2015. 

Pub. by Editions Métailié in  France in Sept. 2014

Cover of Editions Métailié edition, to be pub. in France in Summer 2014

Praise for TRAM 83:

  • “A debut novel with a vertiginous rhythm. Picaresque poetry turned into music by a mix of slam and a series of loops and turns as bewitching as a sustained jazz melody.” – Sean James Rose, Livres Hebdo
  • “A real discovery among the novels of the rentrée.” – Alain Mabanckou, Jeune Afrique
  • “So how adventurous are US/UK publishers? Who will take a stap at Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s TRAM 83? Because seriously – someone has to.” – The Literary Saloon
  • “Highly poetic and edgy, TRAM 83 is an incredible plunge into the language and energy of a reinvented country, a hallucinogenic and hilarious tsunami in which each sentence screams a ferocious will to live. Welcome to another place.” – from the back cover

Plot of TRAM 83:

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 city’s only night-club, den of all the outlaws: ex children-soldiers, prostitutes, blank students, unmarried mothers, sorcerers’ apprentices, …

Lucien, a professional writer, fleeing the exactions and the censorship, finds refuge in the city thanks to Requiem, a youth friend. Requiem lives mainly on theft and on swindle while Lucien only thinks of writing and living honestly. Around them gravitate gangsters and young girls, retired or runaway men, profit-seeking tourists and federal agents of a non-existent State.

TRAM 83 plunges the reader into the atmosphere of a gold rush as cynical as, sometimes, comic and colorfully exotic. It’s an observation of human relationships in a world that has become a global village. It could be described as an African-rap or rhapsody novel or puzzle-novel hammered by rhythms of jazz.


Fiston Mwanza Mujila was born in Lubumbashi (Democratic Republic of Congo), where he went to a catholic school and university. He studied Letters and Human Sciences at Lubumbashi’s University. Now he lives in Graz, Austria and is pursuing a PHD in Romance Languages. His writing has been awarded with numerous prizes, including the Gold Medal at the 6th Jeux de la Francophonie in Lebanon as well as the Best Text for Theater (“Preis für das beste Stück”, State Theater, Mainz) in 2010.

His poems, prose works and plays are reactions to the political turbulence that has come in the wake of the independence of the Congo and its effect on day-to-day life. His texts describe, as he says in one of his poems, a “geography of hunger”: hunger for peace, freedom, and bread. His texts have been published in the original French and in translation in many journals and anthologies in several European countries, and he has been performing at readings and festivals since 2002.

Tram 83, written in French and due to be published in summer 2014 by Éditions Métailié, is his first novel.


And since I know most of you are going to have to Google it anyways, here is a map of the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire, with a circle around Lubumbashi, Mwanza’s hometown. I am so excited to publish the debut novel by one of the most exciting authors working anywhere in the world. TRAM 83 could very well go down as THE novel of 21st century Africa, and we will be hearing much, much more from Fiston as his literary reputation grows around the world…

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