Sony LABOU TANSI – Congo Brazzaville

Sony Labou Tansi, écrivain de Brazzaville, Congo
Sony Labou Tansi (1947-1995), writer and playwright, was based in Congo Brazzaville recognized as the father of Francophone literature.
Writings : 'La Vie et demie, Seuil, 1979 , 'L'État honteux', Seuil, 1981 ; 'Lèse-majesté', ACCT, 1982 ; 'L'Anté-peuple', Seuil, 1983, Grand prix littéraire d'Afrique noire ; 'Les sept solitudes de Lorsa Lopez', Seuil, 1985. Palme de la Francophonie ; 'Les Yeux du volcan', Seuil, 1988 ; 'Le Coup de vieux', Présence Africaine, 1988 ; 'Le Commencement des douleurs', Seuil, 1995 ; 'L'Autre Monde', Revue noire, 1997.

Theatre : 'La Parenthèse de sang', suivi de 'Je soussigné cardiaque', Hatier, 1981 ; 'Moi, veuve de l'empire', L'Avant-Scène, 1987 ; 'Qui a mangé madame d'Avoine Bergotha', Lansman, 1989 ; 'La Résurrection rouge et blanche de Roméo et Juliette', revue Acteurs, 1990 ; 'Une chouette petite vie bien osée', Lansman, 1992 ; 'Une vie en arbre et chars...bons', Lansman, 1992 ; 'Théâtre complet', 2 volumes, Lansman, 1995 ; 'Antoine m'a vendu son destin', Accoria, 1997 ; 'La Rue des mouches', Éditions Théâtrales, 2005 ; 'Qui a mangé Madame d'Avoine Bergotha', Lansman, 2014 ; 'Qu'ils le disent, qu'elles le beuglent', Lansman, 2014 ;: 'Une vie en arbre et chars... bonds', Lansman, 2015 ; 'Une chouette petite vie bien osée', Lansman, 2015


Poesy : 'Poèmes et vents lisses', Le Bruit des autres, 1995 ; 'Poèmes', édition critique, coord. Claire Riffard et Nicolas Martin-Granel, en coll. avec Céline Gahungu, Paris, Éditions du CNRS, coll. « Planète Libre », 2015

Published works in English : 'Parentheses of Blood, a play'. Trans. Lorraine Alexander Veach. New York: Ubu Repertory Theater Publications, 1986 ; 'The Antipeople, a novel'. Trans. J.A. Underwood. and M. Boyars. New York: Kampmann, 1988 ; 'The Seven Solitudes of Lorsa Lopez'. Trans. Clive Wake. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1995 ; 'An Open Letter To Africans' c/o The Punic One-Party State, an essay. Trans. John Conteh-Morgran. Published in Tejumola Olaniyan and Ato Quayson's African Literature: An Anthology of Criticism and Theory. Malden: Blackwell Publishers, 1990 ; 
Published by Revue Noire publisher (in French) : 'L’Autre monde, écrits inédits' (1997), 'L’Atelier de Sony Labou Tansi, correspondances, poésie, roman inédits' (2005)



 Infernal Letter to Monsieur Arthur Rimbaud

["The Infernal Letter to Arthur Rimbaud" was written for the commemoration of the centenary of Rimbaud's death and was published in RN 08 in December 1992, original poem unpublished text in French. The actor - director Jean-Paul Delore offers on stage an astonishing reading of this text.]
[This poem 'Infernal Letter' can be considered as an exchange of ideas with his compatriot Tchicaya U Tam’si and his writing ’La Source’ published in RN 05 in June 1992]

Monsieur Rimbaud

I'm telling you straight

to the soul

This world is dead

And France too

I'll tell you again

Straight to the pants

This world will soon finish


And you will never again go

to Abyssinia or Asia

dealing in absinthe

in ideas high as weeds

in good moods

in down and out enthusiasms

in clusters of weapons

Home-made Scuds and mean

frail ambiences – never again


No Monsieur Arthur

You will never go again

To sell the peacock's feather

And the boss's butt

Not to the blue misted desert of Nubia

Nor to the scorching confines

of the Niamand-Garam falls

Animals battered with water


and money will no longer look at you

from the back of their brains –


It's finished Monsieur Arthur

Unless arteries disgorge

You will no longer leap over

all the trees of knowledge

intimately linked

to profit –


Monsieur Arthur I am telling you

from Africa

between the French green berets

and black Italians all over the place

You will no longer sell

a hundred thousand gnashing of teeth

a hundred thousand lots

drawn to decide the destiny of a Verlaine

With a blood-red weapon maintaining

law and order included –


Now that sky-blue is the color Humanity wears

You will no longer walk around

in Charleville

or in Charleroi

or at Charles de Gaulle airport

except cornered

between a neighing Journiac

and a Genet done up to the nines

farting with white fear

in a France let loose

in central Cow-boyonia

and where the chilly-willies get to you in the eyes

in the brain

in the spleen

in the balls

in the dictionary ...


You yourself Monsieur Arthur

Academician of the West Winds

You will no longer go elsewhere

than sucked up into the vacuum of the

bomb storm

And you will be summoned

to vacuum-clean

the Academy of Moral Science


Monsieur Arthur

Pity this France

that has never had anything greater

than reason and culture

France thrown to the winds

and which will not germinate

before the last century –


Monsieur Arthur

There is true pidgin in the trace of your soles

and crude fuel oil

and rainbow risings

and leonine blind drunks

and chaotic gain

and arab blood –


You can trust me

at the whisper of a new word

at the touch of the mangled flower of hope

in a leathery voice

as tough as Mount Cameroon –


All hopes being equal

Me Ham

napalm's heir

commander gassed

cheated body and soul

There are no more seasons

in Hell – no more reason

no more anything

except fat gain



odorless –

no more knowledge

no more blooming anguish

let's get rid of all the winds

to dance the dance

of the little white dancer

White from arse to soul

And it cheats

it lies

it hints at the edges

of the mind –


Eminences grises

and manuals à gogo

all balls placed

and well protected

the pouch oozes

It will sweat blood

Minus fifty

is the temperature

where poets are made


But France Monsieur Arthur opts for fire

Wood fire

Oh no –

A fire of dried tibias in Chad bathing

in a season with five Aprils

and it flows

and it will flow –

fire replaces reason

and hunger

and the disembarkation of legs

Maison Vianney full of scolarly scum


Bardey they're hard at it

behind the cavalcades


I'm telling you from Africa

cuckolded mother

we will no longer suffocate

now that the whole world

is no longer whole –

with a motherland

dying of a hundred plagues

The profession – even of squatting

is sold to death

for stones thrown

for lead shot

Tadjoura neighs

like an old white horse

the whiteness of swindlers

green anguish in tibia-land

bodies dressed in silk

naked soul

which has denuded intelligence


Monsieur Arthur

I swear to you

We will no longer travel

other than light.


Sony Labou Tansi, Brazzaville, February, 21 1991




Juliet’s Testament

[extract from ’La résurrection rouge et blanche de Roméo et Juliette’ ('The Red and White Resurrection of Romeo and Juliet)' based on William Shakespeare

published in RN 01 in May 1991, original text written in French, translated by W. A. Caswell]

Dearest love, I drank your words and this draught will be my death because your flesh is riven to mine by the burning bonds which unite us, how could I breathe under the darkened sky in the face of a fallen sun. Your blood summons mine, your corpse claims mine – newly-wed for only a few hours we must bear our bodies before us towards the same fatal flower. I now unbutton this dress of life to meet and match the crystal-clear nakedness of your soul. How could I do otherwise – Romeo fractured sun flaring corpse I come to you in the robes I donned yesterday before God and the Holy Church. What other defiance must I wear how else could I preserve the paltry body I vowed to you. My love, the unchaste shall inherit a blighted sky, we shall be united in our common dream, read the same chapter in the book of death where the essence of our common measure and our common destiny is told.


Romeo sweetest corpse, my heart-ship journey's end, open your stillness, let me drink a new world from your faint lips, the passion which loves us together.(…)


Men of this earth, take your hubbub weave your webs of bitter dispute devour your death. Let those who are starved of intrigue grow fat to their hearts' content light other fires to burn other innocents make show of humanity trample soil burn eviscerate the fragile – alas, you never let me hate enough to hate you with – I go a virgin into the gaol of the love I have espoused – Romeo the time to seal my lips and I come to you… (silence)


Sony Labou Tansi

extract from ’La résurrection rouge et blanche de Roméo et Juliette’ (The Red and White Resurrection of Romeo and Juliet) based on William Shakespeare.

Published in French by Revue Acteurs-Auteurs no83, September ,Acte Sud.

Staging Sony Labou Tansi, sets and costumes Hélène Delprat.