The Shameful State: A Novel

The Shameful State: A Novel

The Shameful State: A Novel

The Shameful State: A Novel


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.


Alain Mabanckou

Sony Labou Tansi (1947–1995) is widely acknowledged as one of Africa’s most talented authors. Although he died at a relatively young age, the singularity, creativity, and pioneering qualities of his novels and plays shaped a generation of literary production and continue to influence contemporary African literature. a cursory glance at the work of such important writers as Kossi Efoui (Togo) or Koffi Kwahulé (Ivory Coast), both of whom have also published novels and plays, reveals traces of this inspiration. Sony Labou Tansi’s creative energy was channeled in multiple directions, at times toward the Rocadu Zulu Theatre Company which he founded in the early 1980s, at others toward the six novels he wrote, all of which were published by the prestigious Éditions du Seuil.

Sony Labou Tansi burst onto the French and francophone literary scene in 1979 with his novel La Vie et demie (Life and a Half, IUP), featuring the emblematic figure of the immortal rebel Martial before whom the relentless efforts of the ruthless postcolonial dictator to liquidate him prove fu-

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