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Véronique Tadjo’s new book, In the Company of Men (Other Press) is an inventive novel of connected vignettes is made richer with interwoven material, ranging from song lyrics and scientific facts to poetry and folk tales. Originally published as En compagnie des hommes (Don Quichotte éditions), this story draws from accounts of the 2013-2016 West Afrcian Ebola outbreak. Tonight’s program is co-presented with Alliance Française de Seattle.

Véronique Tadjo brings together a chorus of voices that give shape to the causes and consequences of the crisis. Two boys venture from their village to hunt in a nearby forest, where they shoot down bats with glee, and cook their prey over an open fire. Within a month, they are dead, bodies ravaged by an insidious disease that neither the local healer’s potions nor the medical team’s treatments can cure. Compounding the family’s grief, experts warn against touching the sick. But this caution comes too late: the virus spreads rapidly, and the boys’ father is barely able to send his eldest daughter away in time for a chance at survival.

“Véronique Tadjo’s In the Company of Men is more than a story about Ebola. This novel, elegiac and sorrowful, is also an affirmation of the cycle of life and nature’s important place in it. What do the living owe to the dead? What do they owe to the earth, which both protects and punishes? Tadjo offers us her powerful, luminous answers in this book.” —Maaza Mengiste, author of The Shadow King, short-listed for the 2020 Booker Prize

Véronique Tadjo is a writer, poet, novelist, and artist from Côte d’Ivoire. She earned a doctorate in Black American Literature and Civilization from the Sorbonne, Paris IV, and went to the United States as a Fulbright scholar at Howard University in Washington, DC. She headed the French Department of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg up until 2015. Her books have been translated into several languages, from The Blind Kingdom (1991) to The Shadow of Imana: Travels in the Heart of Rwanda (2001) and Queen Pokou: Concerto for a Sacrifice (2005), which was awarded the Grand Prix de Littérature d’Afrique noire 2005.

Odile Cazenave is Professor of French Studies in Romance Studies, African Studies, and the Center for the Study of Europe, and is an Associate Faculty with the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University. She is the Chair of Romance Studies. She is one of the Editors of JALA, the Journal of the African Literature Association and in 2018, was named a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académique

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