In the beginning was the stone, and the stone prompted ownership, and ownership a rush, and the rush brought an influx of men of diverse appearance who built railroads through the rock, forged a life of palm wine, and devised a system, a mixture of mining and trading.Northern Station. Friday. Around seven or nine in the evening. “Patience, friend, you know full well our trains have lost all sense of time.”The Northern Station was going to the dogs. It was essentially an unfinished metal structure, gutted by artillery, train tracks, and locomotives that called to mind the railroad built by Stanley, cassava fields, cut-rate hotels, greasy spoons, bordellos, Pentecostal churches, bakeries, and noise engineered by men of all generations and nationalities combined.It was the only place on earth you could hang yourself, defecate, blaspheme, fall into infatuation, and thieve without regard to prying eyes. Indeed, an air of connivance hung ever about the place. Jackals don’t eat jackals. They pounce on the turkeys and partridges, and devour them. According to the fickle but ever-recurring legend, the seeds of all resistance movements, all wars of liberation, sprouted at the station, between two locomotives. And as if that weren’t enough, the same legend claims that the building of the railroad resulted in numerous deaths attributed to tropical diseases, technical blunders, the poor working conditions imposed by the colonial authorities – in short, all the usual clichés.Northern Station. Friday. Around seven or nine.He’d been there nearly three hours, jostling with the passers-by as he waited for the train to arrive. Lucien had been at pains to insist on the sense of time, and on these trains that broke all records of derailment, delay, and overcrowding. Requiem had better things to do than wait for this individual who, with the passing of the years, had lost all importance in his eyes. Ever since he’d turned his back on Marxism, Requiem called everyone who deprived him of his freedom of thought and action armchair communists and slum ideologues. He had merchandise to deliver, his life depended on it. But the train carrying that son of a bitch Lucien was dragging its wheels.Northern Station. Friday. Around…“Would you care for some company, sir?”A girl, dressed for a Friday night in a station whose metal structure is unfinished, had come up to him. A moment to size up the merchandise, a dull thud, a racket that marked the entrance of the beast.“Do you have the time, citizen?”He had adequately assayed the chick and even imagined her lying on her mean little bed, despite the half-light. He pulled her body against his, asked her name, “Call me Requiem,” stroked his fingers across the young creature’s breasts, then another line: “Your thighs have the allure of a vodka bottle…” before disappearing into the murky gloom of the slimy, sticky crowd.
Labels: Book Review, Etisalat Prize for Literature, Fiston Mwanza Mujila, Man Booker International Prize, Reviewers Crib, Roland Glasser, Tram 83