Paperback / softback
January 3, 2016
8.50 Inches (US)
5.50 Inches (US)
$20.00 USD, £16.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference

The Shameful State

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.

About the Authors

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).


"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

"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

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

"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

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

"Sony Labou Tansi is one of the greatest [writers] in the French language."—Gilles Costaz, Le Matin, reviewing a previous edition or volume

"Sony Labou Tansi is one of the greatest [writers] in the French language."—Gilles Costaz, Le Matin
Indiana University Press
Global African Voices

9780253019257 : the-shameful-state-sony-labou-tansi-thomas
Paperback / softback
132 Pages
$20.00 USD

Other Titles by Sony Labou Tansi

Life and a Half

Sony Labou Tansi, translated by Alison Dundy, introduction by Dominic Thomas
Feb 2011 - Indiana University Press
$19.95 USD - Paperback / softback

Other Titles by Dominic Thomas

The Tears of the Black Man

Alain Mabanckou, translated by Dominic Thomas, OtherLibrairie Artheme Fayard
Jul 2018 - Indiana University Press
$16.00 USD - Paperback / softback

The Colonial Legacy in France

edited by Nicolas Bancel, Pascal Blanchard, Dominic Thomas, translated by Alexis Pernsteiner
May 2017 - Indiana University Press
$60.00 USD - Hardback

Jazz and Palm Wine

Emmanuel Dongala, translated by Dominic Thomas, OtherIrene Rondini, foreword by Dominic Thomas
Apr 2017 - Indiana University Press
$20.00 USD - Paperback / softback

Other Titles from Global African Voices

The Empire of Illusion

Aminata Sow Fall, translated by Meg Furniss Weisberg
Jul 2023 - Indiana University Press
$20.00 USD - Paperback / softback

Commander of the River

Ubah Cristina Ali Farah, translated by Hope Campbell Gustafson
Apr 2023 - Indiana University Press
$65.00 USD - Hardback
$30.00 USD - Paperback / softback

39 Berne Street

Max Lobe, translated by Johanna McCalmont
Mar 2023 - Indiana University Press
$20.00 USD - Paperback / softback

Other Titles in FICTION / General

At The Breakers

Mary Ann Taylor-Hall
Apr 2022 - University Press of Kentucky
$24.95 USD - Hardback
$24.95 USD - Electronic book text
$19.95 USD - Paperback / softback

The Words of My Roaring

Robert Kroetsch, introduction by Thomas Wharton
Jan 2022 - University of Alberta Press
$18.99 USD - Paperback / softback

A Romance of the Republic

Lydia Maria Child, edited by Dana D. Nelson
Dec 2021 - University Press of Kentucky
$35.00 USD - Paperback / softback
$35.00 USD - Electronic book text