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Life and a Half: A Novel Paperback – Feb 15 2011


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"Life and a Half is a place and a time of half-death―or, if one prefers, half-life. It is a place where life and death are so entangled that it is no longer possible to distinguish them, or to say what is on the side of the shadow or its obverse." ―Achille Mbembe



"Sony's writing is vivid and inventive... It makes for a powerful and often fascinating if also often frustrating read." ―The Complete Review



"[T]he novel's treatment of the themes of oppression and resistance is universal enough to find echoes throughout the developing world, not just Africa, and the book is as relevant today as it was when originally published." ―Choice



"... a useful reminder of the greater depth of the African canon, and of the literary gems to be found in francophone Africa.... Sony Labou Tansi's Life and a Half seethes with the violence and disappointment of the turbulent post-independence period in his native Congo.... The relentless satire is so angry, and so startling it is not always easy to read―but as his great Congolese successor Alain Mabanckou has written, Life and a Half was one of the 'founders of the new francophone literature'." ―The Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Sony Labou Tansi (1947–1995) was a Congolese novelist, playwright, and poet whose groundbreaking work transformed postcolonial francophone African literature.

Alison Dundy translates from French and Italian. She specializes in literature, social sciences, and art.


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Amazon.com: 3 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Don't miss this! March 24 2011
By Quyomi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
After reading Life and a Half, most of it in a day, I felt like my head was on fire. Discovering Sony Labou Tansi was like suddenly having a brilliant, eccentric friend in Africa who could really puncture the lazy generalizations we have about life there. This wouldn't be possible without Alison Dundy's spectacular work in bringing this novel into English. As far as I could tell (without having the French original at hand), the translation is completely transparent. Despite some pretty gnarly problems to solve, Dundy's work does not call attention to itself at all and totally honors the wild mind of this guy. Tansi is unrelenting and funny. Life and a Half is a dark, wild fever dream of a novel. Read it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
a hallucinatory world, vividly rendered March 4 2011
By Marguerite Shore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
in a land once subjugated by colonialism, then pillaged by a series of dictators, the shards of a hallucinatory world are vividly rendered by Sony Labou Tansi and impeccably translated by Alison Dundy. There are no clear boundaries between reality and imagination, and the book's inventive and jolting language keeps the reader on edge, breathlessly turning the pages.This book is an investigation of the chaos and cruelty of life in Africa, where family and cultural bonds struggle to keep alive both memory and meaning.
Read it May 13 2015
By Nate C-K - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the great African novels, and hopefully this translation to English will bring Tansi's work greater recognition in the English-speaking world.

I read "La vie et demie" (i.e., this book, in French) as required reading in a African literature class in Senegal when I was studying abroad there. When I came home, I wanted to recommend it to all my friends, but it wasn't available in English... until now!

"Life and a Half" tells a story so full of bizarre twists that it is a bit bewildering, but its style is so beautiful that each twist is fascinating in itself, even if you haven't yet fully grasped its significance.

This book is in the genre of magical realism, reminiscent of works by authors like Marquez, Bulgakov or Vonnegut, and like those authors he uses this escape from reality to create deeply emotional imagery. This approach allows poignant political criticism (a hallmark of all of these authors) to be wrapped in a story so intensely human that it transcends the culture and political circumstance in which it was written, even while clearly being very much OF that culture and place in history at the same time.

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