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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Seven Solitudes of Lorsa Lopez

Sony Labou Tansi

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To purchase The Seven Solitudes of Lorsa Lopez

Title: The Seven Solitudes of Lorsa Lopez
Author: Sony Labou Tansi
Genre: Novel
Written: 1985 (Eng. 1995)
Length: 129 pages
Original in: French
Availability: The Seven Solitudes of Lorsa Lopez - US
The Seven Solitudes of Lorsa Lopez - UK
The Seven Solitudes of Lorsa Lopez - Canada
The Seven Solitudes of Lorsa Lopez - India
Les sept solitudes de Lorsa Lopez - Canada
Les sept solitudes de Lorsa Lopez - France
Le sette solitudini di Lorsa Lopez - Italia
  • French title: Les sept solitudes de Lorsa Lopez
  • Translated by Clive Wake

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Our Assessment:

B : turbulent and messy

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Nation . 25/3/1996 Chris King
The New Yorker . 5/2/1996 John Updike
Publishers Weekly . 4/12/1995 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Call it a tragicomedy, Iyrically told; a bloody farce for the end of a miserable century (...); a brilliant portrait of places in chaos like Zaire, so long sucked dry by so many--and chaotic places like the human heart. The plot: It's mythy, bloody and convoluted." - Chris King, The Nation

  • "Tansi piles absurdity on top of absurdity here, but always makes it work with a combination of bawdy and wry comedy. Humor is always difficult to render in another language, but here the original French text benefits from an excellent translation that flows smoothly without mucking up any of the jokes." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Seven Solitudes of Lorsa Lopez is a seven part saga of a troubled city, Valancia, in a troubled African country. It begins with Lorsa Lopez's murder of his wife, Estina Benta -- or rather, the anticipation thereof. The brutal crime, overheard by many of the townspeople (though no one apparently thinks to interfere) is not readily forgotten: Lopez himself feels great guilt and goes through a ritual of painful reminders (which includes the seven solitudes of the title), and the body is left for the police to come and deal with it.
       The national authorities have other priorities: the police do show up, four months later, but don't launch an investigation (indeed, authorities here rarely do anything resembling their supposed job). So the corpse remains as a reminder -- and when it is buried, it is also disinterred and reassembled when the police are likely to show up again, not that there's ever really cause -- a typical inventive touch in book jam-packed with such ideas and images.
       Lopez places blame during his murderous rage:

It's all the fault of the whites. They've mixed everything up: the roles of the puppet, the epileptic and the idiot. Their money has killed our soul.
       Whatever the reason, what remains is a state of confusion and unrest, and though Valancia manages a semblance of stability, outside influences and actions, especially of the government, disturb any balance that might set in.
       The Seven Solitudes of Lorsa Lopez includes much that is fantastical and exaggerated; any semblance of normality is the exception. A mass-suicide of virgin nuns, castrated pygmies, a fish with death's head, "at least seventy feet long and weighing three tons" (where they're not sure whether it is alive or dead), a huge citadel. Much time passes, with little improvement: chaos, death, indifference, betrayal, and especially the crushing of others are the everyday norm, all along. There are power struggles between women and men, there is the constant threat from outside, including both religious and business interests.
       This is about as turbulent a novel as one can imagine, blood-spattered and brutally messy. Sony seems to get carried away by his flights of fancy, but grounded in the real African mess he was familiar with there's a striking sense of honesty behind it: he may be holding up a wildly distorting mirror, but it is a mirror nonetheless, a reflection of the very real (and only differently ugly).
       Powerful and lively stuff, though not easy to get through with its tangle of plots, and brutality abruptly shifting circumstances.

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The Seven Solitudes of Lorsa Lopez: Reviews: 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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