Laureation Address: Professor Véronique Tadjo PhD

Graduation Office
Monday 10 June 2024

Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters
Laureation by Professor Nicki Hitchcott, School of Modern Languages

Monday 10 June 2024 – ceremony two

Vice-Chancellor, it is my privilege to present for the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, Professor Véronique Tadjo.

Véronique Tadjo is an award-winning writer from francophone Africa whose works have been translated into many languages, including English, Japanese, Korean and Swedish, as well as several languages of the African continent. She is also an illustrator, an artist, a translator, and an academic, having most recently been Visiting Professor at St Anne’s College, Oxford, and at Wits University in South Africa. Véronique is a strong advocate for the creative Arts, especially literature, as a force for social, political, and environmental change.

Born in Paris, Véronique grew up in Abidjan, the de facto capital of the West African nation of Côte d’Ivoire. She earned a BA in English from the University of Abidjan and a doctorate from the Sorbonne, Paris, in African American Literature and Civilisation. In 1983, Véronique went to Howard University in Washington DC as a Fulbright scholar. The following year she published her first collection of poetry, Latérite (Red Earth).

It was also in the 1980s that Véronique started writing and illustrating books for children. One of these, Mamy Wata and the Monster, has now been published in eight dual language editions and was listed as one of the 100 Best African Books of the 20th Century at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair.

Professor Véronique Tadjo PhD

Alongside her books for young people, Véronique has published eight outstanding fictional works for adults, most of them now available in English translation, and three collections of poetry. Two of her recent works tackle particularly difficult moments in the history of our shared humanity: The Shadow of Imana is a creative response to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda; In the Company of Men is a fictional commentary on the Ebola epidemic that struck West Africa in 2014.

Véronique’s books are studied in universities around the world, including here at St Andrews. She has received numerous literary honours for her writing. In 2022, she was awarded the top prize for fiction in the Los Angeles Times Book Awards for In the Company of Men. Narrated by multiple storytellers, including a bat, the Ebola virus, and a baobab tree, this brilliant novel resonates strongly with our recent experiences of living through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Originally published in French in 2017, it was described by the judges as ‘gripping and prescient […] unlike anything we’ve ever read before’.

This extraordinary book confirms Véronique Tadjo’s status as a world-leading woman writer from francophone Africa. Only a small number of francophone African authors have known success beyond the French-speaking world and very few of them are women.

Vice-Chancellor, in recognition of her major contribution to World Literature and the Arts, I invite you to confer the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, on Professor Véronique Tadjo.

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