The Shameful State

9780253019257: Paperback
Release Date: 3rd January 2016

Dimensions: 140 x 216

Number of Pages: 132

Series Global African Voices

Indiana University Press

The Shameful State

Written by
Sony Labou Tansi
Translated by
Dominic Thomas
Foreword by
Alain Mabanckou
Paperback / £16.99

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.

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

"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

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


"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

"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

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

Le Monde