Every day the coast looked the same, as though we had not moved; but we passed various places—trading places—with names like Gran’ Bassam Little Popo, names that seemed to belong to some sordid farce acted in front of a sinister backcloth.
We called at some more places with farcical names, where the merry dance of death and trade goes on in a still and earthy atmosphere as of an overheated catacomb; all along the formless coast bordered by dangerous surf, as if Nature herself had tried to ward off intruders; in and out of rivers, streams of death in life, whose banks were rotting into mud, whose waters, thickened into slime, invaded the contorted mangroves, that seemed to writhe at us in the extremity of an impotentů
They still belonged to the beginnings of time—had no inherited experience to teach them as it were), and of course, as long as there was a piece of paper written over in accordance with some farcical law or other made down the river, it didn’t enter anybody’s head to trouble how they would live.
a situation that is so badly organized or going so poorly that it seems ridiculous
a situation that is made to look like one thing, but is really another
or more specifically:
a situation that is supposed to be fair, but is completely unfair