2:15 PM–3:30 PM VIRTUAL CONVERSATION
A Conversation between Véronique Tadjo and Madeleine Dobie
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Drawing on real accounts of the Ebola outbreak that devastated West Africa, Véronique Tadjo's poignant, timely fable reflects on both the strength and the fragility of life and of humanity’s place in the natural world. 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.
Newly translated into English by The Other Press (set for release in February 2021), Tadjo tells the story of two boys who 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.
Check out Le Monde's article about En compagnie des hommes.
Véronique Tadjo 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 defines herself as pan-African, in a way that is reflected in the subject matter, imagery and allusions of her work. Madeleine Dobie is Professor of French and Department Chair at Columbia.
This event is part of the course "Pandemics in Francophone literature and history" taught by Madeleine Dobie and Thomas Dodman at Columbia University. The course explores the history of epidemics and medical confinement in France and some of its colonies/former colonies, from the 1720 plague in Marseille to recent outbreaks of Ebola and our very own pandemic, COVID-19.
Event co-sponsored by the Columbia Maison Française, Center for Science and Society, Department of History, Institute of African Studies, Center for Comparative Literature and Society, and The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities, and the Other Press.