French-Senegalese writer and academic David Diop’s sophomore novel At Night All Blood is Black, originally published in French as Frère d’âme and translated into English by Anna Moschovakis, is the winner of the 2021 International Booker Prize.

Set during World War I, the 150-page novel tells the story of a Senegalese soldier’s descent into madness after his friend and fellow soldier is killed by Germans, and how, as a consequence, he exacts revenge on German soldiers with extreme brutality.

Diop’s inspiration was his great-grandfather, who served as one of the many Senegalese recruited by the French army, as well as the fact that, although men who fought on behalf of France regularly participated in national parades in the West African country, their contributions are rarely acknowledged in France.

The five other writers in this year’s international shortlist included Mariana Enriquez of Argentina for The Dangers of Smoking in Bed; Chilean writer Benjamin Labatut for When We Cease to Understand the World; Olga Ravn of Denmark for The Employees; Russian poet Maria Stepanova for In Memory of Memory and French filmmaker and writer Eric Vuillard for The War of the Poor.

Published in Dawn, Books & Authors, June 13th, 2021

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