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The Antipeople

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When a student falsely claims in a suicide note that she was pregnant with his child, Dadou, a teacher, finds his life gradually ruined

170 pages, Paperback

First published September 1, 1983

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About the author

Sony Labou Tansi

30 books14 followers
Sony Lab'ou Tansi (5 July 1947 - 14 June 1995), born Marcel Ntsoni, was a Congolese novelist, short-story writer, playwright, and poet. Though he was only 47 when he died, Tansi remains one of the most prolific African writers and the most internationally renowned practitioner of the "New African Writing." His novel The Antipeople won the Grand Prix Littéraire d'Afrique Noire. In his later years, he ran a theatrical company in Brazzaville in the Republic of the Congo.

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5 stars
13 (23%)
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22 (40%)
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17 (30%)
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Displaying 1 - 16 of 16 reviews
Profile Image for Pedro.
502 reviews152 followers
May 22, 2023
En Brazzaville (R. D. Congo), el ciudadano Dadou es íntegro y respetado, hasta que una mujer se apodera de su deseo; protegerá su virtud a través del alcohol y la caída en desgracia.

Esto podría parecerse a una clásica tragedia (como Desgracia, de Coetzee, o tantas más). Pero es contado en clave africana, con un formato entre la leyenda popular y el antiguo cuento infantil.

La historia, que por momentos tiene caracteres del absurdo, se desarrolla en medio del abuso de poder y la violencia. Y una inquietud que aparece en forma reiterada: dada la realidad, como vivir una buena vida.

La historia transcurre en los dos Congos, Brazzaville y Kinshasa con el río Congo como un protagonista más.

Sony Labou Tansi nació en Kinshasa (Congo Belga-Zaire-República Democrática de Congo), aunque vivió en Brazzaville (República de Congo, antigua colonia francesa). Murió a los 47 años, víctima del SIDA.
Profile Image for Violet.
168 reviews22 followers
May 27, 2017
I am not afraid to admit that this is among the most difficult-to-grasp pieces ever to be encountered in my entire adult reading career. I liked reading it, and I am glad that I did— but I am not entirely sure that I understood it all.

First off, I read the English translation. I don't know how great this (only?) translation is in contrast to the original French, but it's all that seems to be out there. And beyond that, I know VERY little about the history and customs of the Congo. I think this is the only work that I have ever read, thus far, from that part of the world. So a few cultural stumbling blocks in there for me, but I did the best that I could.

And even beyond that? This book gets existential. I mean, way out there. Wayyy past the lens of Camus and his first-world problems, straight into a nation where justice is never served and war is a way of life. (I think this seems so much more emphatic than the typical Camus because there is so much more pain involved.) High morals and survival don't go hand-in-hand in a place like this, but society is keen on judging.

So how can a man want to live a "proper" life, when a proper life is empty and false? When the top spot is a temporary spot? When people die for nothing, and the systems of society serve no one but the officials who are in charge just for today? Will they be dead and betrayed tomorrow, so that another may rise in their place? Will you be dead tomorrow? If there is a God, where is he? He can't be there and keep looking at this, right.... or do we not understand him? Why are people so bad? Why did we even create these systems that oppress us? And why does a man love a woman he meets just for a moment, while he feels so much less for another who pledges all she has to aid his cause? I could list for a long time. I think Tansi could have too.

But by the end our protagonist, Dadou, becomes something other than the common man. He steps outside the world of people into the world of resistance; the world of anti-people, who fight for the only beauty that really exists: love, peace, and freedom. There is brief mention of a piece of lore which says that a tribe once escaped all the unhappiness of modern man by begging their ancestors until, mercifully, they were turned into monkeys. They no longer had to follow the arbitrary rules of man, and could be truly happy. They were anti-people... and now, so are Dadou and Yealdara.

At least, that was my take on it.

There is a lot going on here. I wish I had read this with a college class, or with a reading group who had more to offer me than the few scraps I could find on the internet. I think I got the gist, but I know there is more that I'm missing. This is an expansive novel, and I'd like to read it again someday.

3.5 for my understanding, and a 4 for all that I know I'm missing.
Profile Image for Tentatively, Convenience.
Author 15 books200 followers
February 21, 2014
Writing these reviews calls my attn to what I haven't read. Prior to reading this I hadn't read a single bk from Africa. I've only read 1 Japanese novel. Definitely a big lack. So I decided to read this. I was attracted by the title. The description on the bk's back gives away the outline of the plot but it didn't spoil it for me.

As a person who knows African music somewhat but African literature not at all, what did I expect? Not really anything in particular but certainly NOT this. It reminds me of so many of my favorite novels. The beginning writing reminds me of Raymond Queneau: humorous & quirky characterization that affectionately describes the messy life of the protaganist. But it transforms in much the same way as B. Traven's "Death Ship": it starts out light-heartedly enuf but idiotic circumstances make everything progressively more grim. In that respect it's like a South American political satire. & much of the political conflict that ensues cd be South American too.

I was completely engrossed in this bk. BUT, it was strange. My copy was translated into English from French. I assume the original was in French. Perhaps that means that the author speaks French b/c of Belgian imperialism in Zaire. Perhaps the author, Sony Labou Tansi, was educated in a Belgian missionary school. Perhaps he loves the writing of Queneau. Right away, I'm reading my 1st African novel & there's colonialism rearing its ugly ass. But the writing appeals to me so much precisely b/c it's rooted in this education.

After all, what bks were written in Africa before colonialism? I cd be completely ignorant here but I'm assuming that the bk is an imported phenomena, I'm assuming that African culture was oral rather than written. If I'm right, then all African bks will be somehow a product of colonialism - immediately making them problematic for me. & yet I loved this novel. & I love literate culture - even though I 'know' that bks are often used as weapons for imperialism - ways of defining 'reality' from a distance - different from oral culture in wch the immediate presence of a story-teller humanizes. But even that changes when recordings are introduced. & I love recordings too.

Anyway, this bk had the effect of making me interested in the history & culture of Zaire & the Congo - where the novel takes place. The political situation seems hellish & brutal but the humanity of so many of the characters, the antiantipeople perhaps - or just the people, is endearing: so much love, so much decency, so much affection, so much caring.

Now I'll be seeking out African bks. Is there a genre of African bk that has less European influence? Not that I'm critical of Tansi's writing. It's beautiful. Sensitive. I just wonder if there's a type of African writing that's less urbanized.
Profile Image for Wim.
299 reviews33 followers
September 19, 2020
Roman intéressant, surtout pour l'atmosphère qu'il évoque: une ambiance de peur, d'injustice et de désespoir dans un monde qui semble s'écrouler.

L'histoire se joue en RDC après les indépendances, où le protagoniste, un homme jeune, ambitieux et vertueux, se perd complètement en essayant de résister aux charmes d'une des élèves de l'école normale dont il est le directeur. Il tente de s'échapper dans l'alcool et précipite ainsi sa chute.

Cela m'a pris du temps avant de me fondre dans l'histoire : les premiers chapitres m'irritaient à cause du langage brutal et misogyne et d'une histoire à première vue banale. Le livre devient fascinant quand les personnages se perdent dans des réflexions existentialistes et balancent entre désespoir et folie. Tout cela dans un flou quant aux appartenances politiques et loyauté qui sont peu claires et n'importent pas face au désir de vivre une vie normale et tranquille.

Même si la prédominance masculine de Dadou diminue au fur à à mesure dans l'histoire, un meilleur équilibre entre les points de vue et le vécu masculins et féminins (Yavelda et Yealdara) aurait rendu ce livre encore plus intéressant.
Profile Image for Benoît.
349 reviews17 followers
April 4, 2021
The story of Dadou, exemplary teacher in a girl school of Kinshasa, who is a parangon of resistance, first with one of his flirtatious students and then with his society, government and very man condition. L’anté-peuple has a unique narrative style that mixes the comical with the existential, in a style constantly on the verge of breaking sentence structure to explore concepts in a language of its own. The first and last part were to my liking, but the middle part when the main character becomes a mystic drunk is a little impossible. This is also linked to the difficult transition in the book from a love triangulation story to a meditation of the collective history of the two Congos, especially the prison and enforced disappearance system.
Profile Image for John.
439 reviews32 followers
January 14, 2019
The difficulty of this novel is that everyone is a complicated mix of bad motivations and worse choices. Dadou is a shuddering hunk of pure manhood such that he has all the young girls at his school lusting after him. And it is musky masculinity that ultimately dooms him. He turns to drink to stop himself from falling prey to the perfection of young girls' constant undulating attention.

The tragic events of this novel are conveyed in short pithy sentences, while the excuiating details are left to the living around those events. Tansi understands that brutality erases less than it alters, so he has his characters change in horrific and terrible ways. All until they "disappear."

While the sexual politics of THE ANTIPEOPLE is problematic by any standard, the stark depiction is typical of a certain "political" novel. In order to set the chain tugging, dragging our heroes through the muck of history, Tansi situates the political in the baseness of lust and beauty. As a result, everyone is punished. Mostly the old who no longer possess the sexual currency that uplifts, saves, or damns lives.

Love is the weapon...
Profile Image for Charlotte.
134 reviews9 followers
August 2, 2011
Un livre aussi insaisissable que ses protagonistes et que le grand fleuve qui le traverse, et qui devrait avoir tout pour me déplaire - du destin faussement combattu, du misérabilisme, de l'exaltation du populaire et de la caricature du riche... Sauf que rien de tout ça ne tient une seconde face à la langue chamboulante (et évidemment ironique) de Labou Tansi. Cette langue sexy, bluesy, puissante, fatiguée... Un tour de force inexplicable qui transforme ce qui pourrait être une histoire de chute sociale à la Zola en provoc' Kafkaïo-absurdo-existentialiste, et balaie par son habileté à transcender le récit (dont je ne vais donc pas m'encombrer pour parler du livre) toutes les critiques que l'om pourrait faire de "l'histoire" d'une injustice en régime totalitaire.
Je n'ai pas compris grand-chose à ce livre à part le sentiment de flottement, d'humour noir et d'humanité qui en suppure, mais la sensation physique qui m'en reste, la brûlure des mots et l'impression d'avoir touché quelque chose qui se rapporte à une situation sans issue et qui est pourtant beaucoup plus vrai et humain que le désespoir, me donne envie de crier chef-d’œuvre. À lire absolument, surtout si vous êtes plus intelligent que moi et pouvez parler de ce livre plus clairement (mais sans en briser le mystère immanent).
On pourrait en faire des kilomètres sur l'école, le rôle des mots et des papiers, la colonisation et son héritage, le capitalisme appliqué aux êtres humains et autres, et cela vaudrait certainement le coup, mais je passe pour aujourd'hui... Par contre mes félicitations au graphiste de Points, la couverture est en plein dans le mille !
Profile Image for Laura.
469 reviews22 followers
September 29, 2020
'A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks.' (George Orwell)

I confess I read the first part of this book and skim read the rest, if that's at all possible. I just didn't get into it - it reminded me of both the film Leaving Las Vegas, and the book L'étranger. There is a deep dissatisfaction with life, a hopelessness, a nothingness and an indifference to others that just didn't chime with me. It's the lamentation of a stubborn and recalcitrant teenager, who having been given everything - education, career, family, seeks more and ends up destroying himself. It's also potentially the story of a deeply depressed man, lacking a strong enough basis to pull himself out of the abyss.
Profile Image for Valerie.
195 reviews
September 11, 2020
This is a much admired and lauded book but it just didn't work at all for me so I dnf it. I didn't get along with the writing which I found overly flowery and fragmented. Moreover, the main character's misogyny and self-absorbed and misery nature just rubbed me the wrong now. I realise the author uses this to make a societal critique but I couldn't connect with the sense of nihilism that pervades the book (or at least the half that I read of it).
Profile Image for Chema Caballero.
162 reviews6 followers
December 28, 2021
Posiblemente se trate de un libro que ha envejecido mal o que yo esperase más de él, cosa mal hecha porque no se debe esperar nada antes de empezar a leer un libro. Sea lo que sea, me ha decepcionado un poco. A pesar de ello es muy interesante, está bien escrito y mantiene perfectamente el ritmo. Parece que el mensaje final es que la corrupción y la violencia están por todas partes y que no existe paraíso en este mundo
Profile Image for Diana Andrade.
94 reviews
January 12, 2023
I thought it was going to become disturbing at some point but story changed path at some point. I will now go investigate some info about Congo to understand more of the context. Overall, I enjoyed the book.
4 reviews4 followers
March 23, 2022
Kinoiseries au temps du Zaïre. Ça se passe dans un bar, en prison et dans le bureau d'une école. On est vite transporté.
5 reviews
January 17, 2017
Leído en castellano en la colección El bronce. https://literafrica.wordpress.com/201...

Aunque al principio me pareció árido y no me interesaba mucho la historia de la obsesión "Lolita", la prosa es alucinante, especialmente la segunda parte, buenísimas reflexiones con un regusto a poesía cruel (algunas recogidas en la review de literafrica; tengo pendiente tomar mis notas).

Profile Image for Beth.
7 reviews1 follower
March 23, 2008
the way he used the word putrid was so perfect in contrast to how this book ends. tansi is one of the great african/congolese writers for a reason.
12 reviews1 follower
March 29, 2011
Fabulous existentialist novel set in Zaire, amongst corruption, war, and alcoholism.
Displaying 1 - 16 of 16 reviews

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