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.
Véronique Tadjo illustrates the terrible extent of the Ebola epidemic through the eyes of those affected: 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.
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.
Tadjo will be in conversation with Sarah Davies Cordova, former Resident Director of Marquette University’s South Africa Service Learning programme centered at the Desmond Tutu Peace Center in Cape Town and the University of the Western Cape. She worked with Dr. Désiré Wa Kabwe Segatti first on a series of interviews with Véronique Tadjo and later to organize a conference examining Tadjo’s oeuvre which culminated in a special volume of the journal Présence africaine. Since joining the faculty in French at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she attends to questions of human rights and hospitality in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean.
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