Sony Labou Tansi: La vie et demie (Life and a Half)

The latest addition to my website is Sony Labou Tansi‘s La vie et demie (Life and a Half). This is a fable, bitterly attacking African dictators and their brutality and is presumably based, at least in part, on Mobutu Sese Seko, dictator of what was then Zaire. Thr novel starts brutally as the Providential Guide, as the leader of the country is called, interrupts his dinner to brutally stab Martial, leader of the opposition, in front of his family. He stabs, him shoots him and poisons him but Martial will not die, till he cuts him up. The Guide and his successors are haunted by Martial, who continues to appear to them and to the people, while his daughter, Chaïdana, against her father’s wishes, kills off the ministers and, in various guises, seduces the Guide and the ministers, We follow both her successor and the Guide’s successors through an ever more fantastical story. It is a strange and unsettling tale but it undoubtedly reflects how Labou Tansi saw the rule of African dictators.

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