February 24, 2021

Véronique Tadjo

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes celebrated novelist and poet VÉRONIQUE TADJO—author of the award-winning books Queen Pokou and Far from My Father—for the paperback release of her latest novel, In the Company of Men. She will be joined in conversation by STÉPHANE ROBOLIN, associate professor of English at Rutgers University, New Brunswick and author of Grounds of Engagement: Apartheid-Era African American and South African Writing.


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.

About Author(s)

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.

Stéphane Robolin is Associate Professor of English and the former director of the Center for African Studies at Rutgers University, New Brunswick.  His research interests include African literature, African American literature, African diaspora studies, postcolonial literature and theory, and spatial theory.  He is the author of Grounds of Engagement: Apartheid-Era African American and South African Writing (2015), which was awarded the African Literature Association’s First Book Award in Scholarship.  Robolin is currently working on a study that examines the underground movement of banned books in apartheid South Africa entitled “Subterranean Circulations.”