David Diop Wins International Booker Prize for Story of Senegalese Soldiers During WWI

Inspired by his grandfather, At Night All Blood Is Black takes place at the French front. Diop will share the £50,000 with his translator Anna Moschovakis.
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David Diop by Joel Saget, AFP.

David Diop by Joel Saget, AFP.

The Senegalese French writer David Diop has won the International Booker Prize for his second novel At Night All Blood Is Black, becoming the first French winner of the prize.

Diop, a professor, centered his novel around World War I. His Senegalese great-grandfather had fought on the French side, but largely remained silent about his experiences during the War. “He never said anything to his wife, or to my mother, about his experience,” Diop told the BBC. “That is why I was always very interested by all the tales and accounts which gave one access to a form of intimacy with that particular war.”

At Night All Blood Is Black investigates the War through the mental health of one soldier who has lost his best friend.

“More than a century after World War One, a great new African writer is asking these questions in a spare yet extraordinary novel about his bloody stain on human history,” wrote The New York Times in its review.

David Diop's At Night All Blood Is Black.
David Diop’s At Night All Blood Is Black.

The International Booker Prize is awarded every year for a single book translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland. At Night All Blood Is Black was described by the chair of judges Lucy Hughes-Hallet as a “story of warfare and love and madness.”

“We judges agreed that its incantatory prose and dark, brilliant vision had jangled our emotions and blown our minds, that it had cast a spell on us,” said Hughes-Hallet in a virtual celebration at the Coventry Cathedral.

Other nominees were Eric Vuillard for The War of the Poor, Mariana Enriquez for The Dangers of Smoking in Bed, Maria Stepanova for In Memory of Memory, Benjamin Labatut for When We Cease to Understand the World, and Olga Ravn for The Employees.

David Diop will split the £50,000 prize with the book’s translator, US author and poet Anna Moschovakis.

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Watch the prize ceremony:

Emmanuel Esomnofu
Emmanuel Esomnofu is a staff writer at Open Country Mag. He is a culture journalist and has written extensively on Nigerian music and on several moving parts of popular culture. His writing appears online in Native Mag, Okay Africa, Kalahari Review, Praxis Magazine, and elsewhere. He was published in print in The Muse, the oldest student journal in West Africa. In December 2020, he worked on "Fuji: A Opera" as a copywriter, creating informative and exciting stories from Fuji's rich history.

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