In the Company of Men
Harper’s Bazaar: Best Book of the Year
Boston Globe: Best Book of the Year
Ms. Magazine: Best Feminist Book of the Year
Words Without Borders: Best Translated Book of the Year
Drawing on real accounts of the Ebola outbreak that devastated West Africa, this poignant, timely fable reflects on both the strength and the fragility of life and humanity’s place in the world.
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 could 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 for a chance at survival.
In a series of moving snapshots, Véronique Tadjo illustrates the terrible extent of the Ebola epidemic, through the eyes of those affected in myriad ways: the doctor who tirelessly treats patients day after day in a sweltering tent, protected from the virus only by a plastic suit; the student who volunteers to work as a gravedigger while universities are closed, helping the teams overwhelmed by the sheer number of bodies; the grandmother who agrees to take in an orphaned boy cast out of his village for fear of infection. And watching over them all is the ancient and wise Baobab tree, mourning the dire state of the earth yet providing a sense of hope for the future.
Acutely relevant to our times in light of the coronavirus pandemic, In the Company of Men explores critical questions about how we cope with a global crisis and how we can combat fear and prejudice.
Véronique Tadjo (born 1955) is a writer, poet, novelist, and artist from Côte d'Ivoire. Having lived and worked in many countries within the African continent and diaspora, she feels herself to be pan-African, in a way that is reflected in the subject matter, imagery and allusions of her work.
Born in Paris, Véronique Tadjo was the daughter of an Ivorian civil servant and a French painter and sculptor. Brought up in Abidjan, she travelled widely with her family.
Tadjo completed her BA degree at the University of Abidjan and her doctorate at the Sorbonne in African-American Literature and Civilization. In 1983, she went to Howard University in Washington, D.C., on a Fulbright research scholarship.
In 1979, Tadjo chose to teach English at the Lycée Moderne de Korhogo (secondary school) in the North of Côte d'Ivoire. She subsequently became a lecturer at the English department of the University of Abidjan until 1993.
In the past few years, she has facilitated workshops in writing and illustrating children's books in Mali, Benin, Chad, Haiti, Mauritius, French Guyana, Burundi, Rwanda and South Africa.
She has lived in Paris, Lagos, Mexico City, Nairobi and London. Tadjo is currently based in Johannesburg, where since 2007 she has been head of French Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Tadjo received the Literary Prize of L'Agence de Cooperation Culturelle et Technique in 1983 and the UNICEF Prize in 1993 for Mamy Wata and the Monster, which was also chosen as one of Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century, one of only four children's books selected. In 2005, Tadjo won the Grand prix littéraire d'Afrique noire.