Paperback / softback
February 15, 2011
8.50 Inches (US)
5.50 Inches (US)
.5 Pounds (US)
$19.95 USD, £16.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference

Life and a Half

A Novel

By Sony Labou Tansi
Introduction by Dominic Thomas, Translated by Alison Dundy
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.

About the Authors

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.


"[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. September 2011"—Choice

"Sony's writing is vivid and inventive . . . It makes for a powerful and often fascinating if also often frustrating read. July 10, 2011"—The Complete Review

". . . 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

"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
Indiana University Press
Global African Voices

9780253222879 : life-and-a-half-sony-labou-tansi-dundy-thomas
Paperback / softback
150 Pages
$19.95 USD

Other Titles by Sony Labou Tansi

The Shameful State

Sony Labou Tansi, translated by Dominic Thomas
Jan 2016 - Indiana University Press
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Other Titles by Alison Dundy

Blue White Red

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Feb 2013 - Indiana University Press
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The Tears of the Black Man

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The Colonial Legacy in France

edited by Nicolas Bancel, Pascal Blanchard, Dominic Thomas, translated by Alexis Pernsteiner
May 2017 - Indiana University Press
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Jazz and Palm Wine

Emmanuel Dongala, translated by Dominic Thomas, OtherIrene Rondini, foreword by Dominic Thomas
Apr 2017 - Indiana University Press
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39 Berne Street

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Mar 2023 - Indiana University Press
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