Congo’s Fiston Mwanza Mujila has won the 2017 Internationaler Literaturpreis Award for the German translation of his first novel Tram 83.
Awarded annually by Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt and the foundation Elementarteilchen, the Internationaler Literaturpreis Award, known in English as the International Literature Award, is a prize for “international prose translated into German for the first time.” While Mujila will be taking home 20,000 euros as the author, his novel’s German translators Katharina Meyer and Lena Müller will be awarded 15,000 euros.
First published in French in 2014, the novel, one of the most acclaimed from Africa in recent years, is renowned for what Professor Ato Quayson calls its “improvisational jazz rhythms.” Set in a nightclub and centered on two friends, the book has earned praised for its restless prose, for being “colourfully exotic.” All the praise it has received pointed towards one thing: that Mujila had written a masterpiece of high art, one in which his philosophy of exploring the “geography of hunger” had been realised.
The book was described as “rhapsodic” and as “a radical report on post-colonial African life in a town built over an immense store of very valuable natural resources” by the award jury.
“Fiston Mwanza Mujila chants, roars, whispers sentences about everyday life in a male society dominated by violence with a radical furor, almost in passing narrating the tale of a crook and of the unlikely salvation of a doomed poet. The translators Katharina Meyer and Lena Müller have found a stirring language for the text that pushes towards the performative.”
Translated into eight languages so far, Tram 83 was nominated for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize and won the 2015 Etisalat Prize for Literature as well as a French Voices Award.
Here is a description of the book on Amazon.
Two friends, one a budding writer home from abroad, the other an ambitious racketeer, meet in the most notorious nightclub—Tram 83—in a war-torn city-state in secession, surrounded by profit-seekers of all languages and nationalities. Tram 83 plunges the reader into the modern African gold rush as cynical as it is comic and colorfully exotic, using jazz rhythms to weave a tale of human relationships in a world that has become a global village.
Months ago, in April, the English translation of Tram 83—done by Roland Glasser—sparked, on the African literary scene, the fiercest literary conversation of the year so far, a conversation on what makes for misogyny and poverty porn in writing.
Mujila is the second African to win this prize after Teju Cole did in 2012 for Open City. NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names was shortlisted in 2015.
The award ceremony will be held on July 6 in Berlin.
Congratulations to Fiston Mwanza Mujila!