Seven Solitudes of Lorsa Lopez

Sony Labou Tansi, Author, Clive Wake, Translator, Sony, Author Heinemann Educational Books $10.95 (129p) ISBN 978-0-435-90594-1

In this sublimely surreal allegory, Tansi (La Vie et Demie)-who recently died of AIDS-related complications-lampoons colonial Africa. As the city of Valancia prepares to celebrate ``its second phony centenary,'' it is suffering. The previous year, the nation's president had insulted the American president and the rest of the world had fallen into line behind a boycott of the little country's pineapples, eventually resulting in Valancia losing the seat of government to nearby Nsanga Norda. To make matters worse, an esteemed citizen, Lorsa Lopez, violently murders his wife (supposedly for giving him lice), an incident that, in the opinion of fellow citizens, makes Valancia look bad. With the police investigation lagging by years, the estimable, ballsy Estina Bronzario lobbies for justice and honor. When no one can remember the murdered woman's maiden name, Estina demands that men take their wives' names. Together with her countrywomen, she puts a ban on sex. 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. (Nov.)