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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!

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, academic, and Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review ("Mulumba," 2016), Transition ("A Tenderer Blessing," 2015), and in an anthology of the Gerald Kraak Award ("You Sing of a Longing," 2017), for which he was shortlisted. His work has further been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship in 2016 and a Pushcart Prize in 2015. His conversations appear in Africa in Dialogue, Bakwa, SPRINNG, and Dwartonline. He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. The first, Enter Naija: The Book of Places (October 2016), focuses on Nigerian cities. The second, Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (June 2017), focuses on professions in Nigeria. Born in Aba, he combined history and literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is currently completing a postgraduate programme in African Studies, and teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. When bored, he just Googles Rihanna.

One Response to “Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s Tram 83 Wins the 2017 Internationaler Literaturpreis Award in Germany” Subscribe

  1. Obaji-Nwali Shegun 2017/06/23 at 11:18 #

    The novel deserves more trophies. The translator as Fiston did a nice job.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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