La vie et demie de Sony Labou Tansi : du rire a l'abjection : ressorts thematiques et effets d'un roman fondateur
This thesis is an in-depth analysis of La Vie et demie, the first novel of the Congolese writer Sony Labou Tansi, which I consider as a foundational text to the five novels he wrote subsequently. The novel concerns an imaginary and chaotic country called Katamalanasie which is ruled by the Guide Proventiel, a cruel and sadistic dictator, followed in time by a string of equally barbaric and ruthless tyrants. The thesis explores in close detail the novel’s underlying themes, discusses the literary or mode it belongs to, and maps out the possible effects it has on the reader. My analysis has as its theoretical focus the violence, the ambiguity and the uncanny which characterize three important episodes. Following Christopher L. Miller’s recommendation, that a better understanding by a Western reader of a text emanating from, and embedded in, Africa should involve a dialogic reading of other texts, the thesis is structured as a dialogue between a range of theorists in the fields of the fields of philosophy, sociology, anthropology, psychoanalysis, and literary theory. This thematic exploration leads me to identify one overarching theme, namely the precariousness of the state of culture and the dangers of the state of nature. The literary aspects of this analysis shows that the highly ambiguous nature of the novel forces the reader to question and relativize his or her approach to any African writer whose work is set within an African context. And in a concluding stage to my thesis, I show how the effects of the violence, the ambiguity and the uncanny eventually give way to abjection, causing the reader to experience him or herself the dangers that the breakdown of the state of culture by barbarism represents.