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Life and a Half: A Novel [Paperback]

Sony Labou Tansi , Dominic Thomas , Alison Dundy

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Book Description

Dec 29 2010 Global African Voices

Listed as one of the 100 best books on Africa, Life and a Half was Sony Labou Tansi’s response to the death of close friends during a bloody military and political crackdown in Congo. The novel takes place in an imaginary African country run by the latest in a series of cannibalistic dictators who has captured Martial, the leader of the opposition, and his family. Though shot, knifed, butchered, and bled, Martial’s spirit lives on to guide his followers in their fight against the dictators. Facing censorship, Tansi insisted that his book was a fable and that if he were ever given the opportunity to write about real events, he would be much more direct rather than follow the torturous paths of a novel. This crisp translation by Alison Dundy maintains the fast-paced action and bitingly satiric tone of the original.

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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: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't miss this! March 24 2011
By Quyomi - Published on Amazon.com
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
4.0 out of 5 stars a hallucinatory world, vividly rendered March 4 2011
By Marguerite Shore - Published on Amazon.com
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.

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