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the Complete Review
the complete review - drama


Parentheses of Blood

Sony Labou Tansi

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To purchase Parentheses of Blood

Title: Parentheses of Blood
Author: Sony Labou Tansi
Genre: Drama
Written: 1981 (Eng. 1985)
Length: 62 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Parentheses of Blood - US
Parentheses of Blood - UK
Parentheses of Blood - Canada
La parenthèse de sang - Canada
Parentheses of Blood - India
La parenthèse de sang - France
  • French title: La parenthèse de sang
  • Translated by Lorraine Alexander
  • With a Preface by Maryse Condé

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Our Assessment:

B+ : sharp, bloody drama

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Parentheses of Blood is set in a country controlled by a brutal authoritarian regime and threatened by rebellion. One freedom fighter, "Anamata Lansa, alias Libertashio", is seen as a particular threat, especially as a symbol of opposition to the government. Libertashio is apparently dead, but that doesn't stop the government from continuing to hunt him down:

We're looking for a Libertashio. We need one. Real or supposed, it doesn't matter. In the end we'll find one we suppose to be real.
       The action takes place at the residence of Libertashio's family, a Fool ("the very image of our late father, but turned inside out") watching over his grave. Soldiers come looking for Libertashio, and even the family can't convince them that he is dead. This is a world where:
The law forbids belief in Libertashio's death, whether he is dead or not. Therefore he is not dead.
       As soon as the leader of the troops suggests that Libertashio may be dead his loyal underlings shoot him: the illegal truth is enough to make him a deserter.
       The family is also sentenced to death, but each gets a last wish, complicating matters. Others also get dragged into the mess, relief that the real Libertashio and his family are being executed tempered by the knowledge that: "they'll find more real ones yet. As usual."
       In the end the victims are barely sure whether they are alive or dead yet, the horror of the real world hardly distinguishable from any imaginable hell. It's a brutal, ugly world; as the Parson cries out to his god:
Men have disappeared, these human forms remain, these human graves, but inside they're no longer human at all.
       Parentheses of Blood is only slightly exaggerated, the world it depicts a real one, too familiar from too many similar cases of government abusing its authority and might. Sony cleverly adds a final twist that reinforces the stupidity of the action, as the government makes an about-face but the soldiers refuse to acccept it: "You're out of step with the times, Sergeant", a member of the new Messenger Corps of the Guide for Peace (who carries "the guns of peace") says, but not everyone can adapt so quickly (leading, of course, to catastrophic results).
       Bitterly funny, Parentheses of Blood is a bloody, tragic farce, a comedy of confusion, identity, and misguided principles. What makes it so successful is that it rings so very true, even in its absurdest turns.

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Parentheses of Blood: Sony Labou Tansi: Other books by Sony Labou Tansi under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of books from and about Africa
  • See Index of Drama books

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About the Author:

       Sony Labou Tansi (1947-1995) spent most of his life in Congo-Brazzaville. He led a theatrical troupe, and wrote numerous plays and novels.

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