A Series of Solitudes

by Fiston Mwanza Mujila

Translated by Roland Glasser

Solitude 61
in my belly there writhes a river,
wretched and lazy, vast and dirty, nasty and bleak,
a river in (advanced) state of dysentery …

Solitude 71
jittery like a dog (?)
bored is the river all day long
whining without knowing why
whining since Babel, since old Noah and his flood
since the prophet Ezekiel, since Sister Abigail …
its snot describes an absurd longevity …

Solitude 52
jittery like a dog (?)
and the thawing farce
between two sneers
I ditch my body to the firstcomer
in the background of this sky unsheathing its drool
anyway, I head to go bark with the dogs
the instant of the solar eclipse on Katako-Kombe II

Solitude 32
I sleep with my shoes on

SOLITUDE 64 or nausea precedes essence
I’ve been pregnant for seventeen years, thirty-six months, and two days. I make love with the sky. I’m expecting a brat from the sky. The child who’ll come out of my belly or the river who’ll be born from my guts or the river-child spat out by my dastard body will return to fill my long, insomniac nights with its flesh… It’ll answer to the name of Mzete ya mbila bazo kata ezo kola. Then I’ll be able to boast (to any who care to listen) of being the father and mother of this muddled progeny, of this centipede-progeny, of this punctured-progeny – uselessly grotesque.

Solitude 57 die Poesie der Verzweiflung or the vociferations of an empty body
… I seek the debris of my body strewn across the beaches of despair, left leg existing only on paper, belly and underbelly in disarray, hands stinking of the merchandise and my barks not even reaching the ankles of this sky deprived of electricity, meaning that I cheat life which grips me by the jaw, meaning that I serve as backdrop to my garbage bag fate, frog-fate, toad-fate, kipelekese-fate, tchanga medesu-fate …

… perhaps (in hope of some kind of salvation) I should whimper and re-whimper in D-minor like my grandma’s last goat: beum, beum, beum …

… and to think there is no euthanasia for the recalcitrant and drunkards of my species! and to think there will be no two successive floods to bear me away in my drool, meaning that old Noah will not come twice, that no more will seven pairs of all purebred animals, male and female, be led into the Ark, which means that the waters of the Zaire river, ebale ezanga mokuwa, will come no more to lick at our luxurious desires and other debaucheries in the starry nights of the red-light districts of Kinshasa and Amsterdam …

… and meanwhile, without gods and without pets, bereft of the spice of life, my centipede-body loafs about the very beaches of despair, on the back cover a dozen of my own teeth forcibly ripped out by lemurs and other scavengers of this sky deprived of fuel oil …

… I can only bleat like Tshela, the last goat of my grandma Julienne mua Mwanza, like Tshela in a mezzo-soprano key: beum, beum, beum …


About the Poet:

Fiston Mwanza Mujila was born in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, in 1981, and writes poetry, prose, and theater that he sometimes translates himself into German. He composes his texts “like a jazz musician, like a saxophonist.” They often react to the political tumult resulting from Congolese independence and its impact on everyday life. Mujila today lives in Graz, were he teaches African literature at Universität Graz and works with musicians in Austria on various projects. In 2010 he received a prize for the best play from Staatstheater Mainz, while his first novel Tram 83 was placed on the long list of the Man Booker International Prize and the Prix du Monde and was awarded the Etisalat Prize for Literature and the Internationaler Literaturpreis from Der Haus der Kulturen der Welt.

About the Translator:

Roland Glasser translates literary and genre fiction from French, as well as art, travel, and assorted non-fiction. His translation of Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s Tram 83 won the Etisalat Prize for Literature 2016 and was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize and the Best Translated Book Award. He serves on the Committee of the Translators Association, and is a co-founder of The Starling Bureau—a translators’ collective.

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