The Shameful State

The Shameful State

Sony Labou Tansi
Translated by Dominic Thomas
Foreword by Alain Mabanckou
Distribution: World
Publication date: 12/28/2015
Format: paper 132 pages
5.5 x 8.5
ISBN: 978-0-253-01925-7
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Set in a fictitious African nation, this novel by the distinguished writer Sony Labou Tansi takes aim at the corruption, degeneracy, violence, and repression of political life in Africa. At the heart of The Shameful State is the story of Colonel Martillimi Lopez, the nation’s president, whose eccentricity and whims epitomize the “shameful situation in which humanity has elected to live.” Lopez stages a series of grotesque and barbaric events while his nation falls apart. Unable to resist the dictator’s will, his desperate citizens are left with nothing but humiliation. The evocation of this deranged world is a showcase for the linguistic and stylistic inventiveness that are the hallmark of Sony Labou Tansi’s work.

This first English translation by Dominic Thomas includes a foreword by Congolese writer Alain Mabanckou that contextualizes the novel’s importance in literary history and the significance of Sony Labou Tansi for future generations of writers.

Author Bio

Sony Labou Tansi (1947–1995) was a Congolese novelist, playwright, and poet whose groundbreaking work transformed postcolonial francophone African literature. He is author of Life and a Half (IUP, 2011).

Dominic Thomas is Madeleine L. Letessier Chair in French and Francophone Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Alain Mabanckou is Professor of French and Francophone Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles and the author of several prizewinning novels. He is author of
Blue White Red (IUP, 2013).


"This book showcases Tansi’s incredible talent and his position, even in death, as one of Africa’s important voices." —Publishers Weekly

"One part madcap farce, one part chamber of horrors, one part modernist look at the jumbling of political, national and personal narratives, Sony Labou Tansi's The Shameful State is purposeful chaos. . . . One of Africa's greatest authors gives a short, brutal and funny look at his continent's type of dictatorship." —Shelf Awareness

"From the dictator's mouth, it signifies the inhumanity and intolerance—but also fear—of the regime toward those who dare to criticize, question, or oppose it. From the mouth of others, prisoners, the tortured, and those condemned to death, it is the denunciation before the forum of all humanity of all forms of barbarism, racism, humanity's exploitation of other human beings, and all attacks on freedom." —Janos Riesz, Research in African Literatures

"A magician with words, this African literary giant powerfully enriched world literature. . . . Where does one even begin when it comes to talking about such a genius, someone who was always thinking and rethinking the creative process, theatre, political commitment, and philosophy." —Radio France Internationale

"[Sony Labou Tansi is] one of the leading African writers." —Le Monde

"Sony Labou Tansi is one of the greatest [writers] in the French language." —Gilles Costaz, Le Matin , reviewing a previous edition or volume

"Mixing surreal violence with pointed political commentary, Tansi uses his linguistic talents to create a narrative that is sadly believable and impossible to ignore." —

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