David Diop becomes first French novelist to win International Booker Prize With At Night All Blood Is Black for translated fiction, his first novel was translated into English.
Diop, the author of the two novels, and her translator Anna Moskovakis split the annual prize of £50,000, which goes to the best author and translator of a work translated into English. At Night All Blood Is Black follows Senegalese soldier Alfa Nadiye, fighting for France In World War I, whose descent into madness following the death of a childhood friend on the frontline begins to show itself in extreme brutality against enemy German soldiers in the trenches.
approximately 135,000 Senegalese skirmishers Fought in Europe, 30,000 were killed. Diop was inspired to write the book by the silence of his Senegalese great-grandfather about his time in the war. “He never told his wife or my mother about his experience. That’s why I’ve always been so interested in all the stories and accounts that gave access to a kind of closeness with that particular war.” He recently told the BBC.
The President of the Judges, historian Lucy Hughes-Hallett, called At Night All Blood Is Black “an extraordinary novel”.
Hughes-Hallett said, “The book is horrifying—reading it, you feel like you’re being hypnotized.” “Your emotions are muddled, your mind is opening to new ideas. It’s an extraordinary piece of fiction, very powerful, very compelling. The protagonist is accused of sorcery and all of us, the judges, felt that This book has somehow cast a spell on us. It’s mesmerizingly compelling.”
She described it as “a story about war, but also about love, the friendships of young people who fight together and the extraordinarily intense relationships that end with each other by people risking death.” It’s also a story about language – the protagonist doesn’t speak much French, so it’s a story written in French, which we read in English, about a man thinking in Wolof. Diop kind of I’ve done something very clever in creating inflammatory language that somehow conveys a feeling that is like thinking outside your own language, as it were.
She said she hoped the violence would not disappoint potential readers. “You can read King Lear’s final act when the bodies are piling up on stage and still responding to not only the horror but the great beauty of the language,” she said.
“This book does what poetry best does, penetrates into the reader’s consciousness at a level that goes beyond the subject matter except for rationality. So yes indeed, you are in terrible limbs and a soldier’s madness.” Reading about… But still, the whole tragedy rests on this dichotomy, depending on the beauty of what is being told to you and how it is being expressed. So much joy comes from this novel. is.”
Born in Paris in 1966 to a French mother and Senegalese father, Diop spent his childhood in Senegal, before returning to study in France, becoming an 18th-century professor of literature at the University of Pau. Since it was published in 2018, At Night All Blood Is Black has been a bestseller in France, where it was shortlisted for 10 literary prizes and won the Prix Goncourt des Lycans. Its translations have also won Italy’s Premio Strega Europo and the Netherlands’ Europe’s Literaturprise.
Night All Blood Is Black was chosen as the International Booker’s winner out of 125 submitted books. Hughes-Hallett said that many of the books submitted this year, including Diops, examined colonialism or migration, “which is certainly a sequel to colonialism,” she said. “This story about people moving around the world, perhaps being welcomed or perhaps excluded by their new host countries, is one that a lot of the authors wanted to address.”
Diop last month made a six-book shortlist with books including Benjamin Labattoos when we stop understanding the worldTranslated from Spanish by Adrian Nathan West and Maria Stepanova in memory of memoryTranslated from Russian by Sasha Dugdale.
Hughes-Hallett said that Diop won by a “majority decision” among the judges, which also included Guardian journalist and author Aida Edemarium, novelist Neil Mukherjee, historian Olivet Otelle and poet and translator George Szirtes. “I don’t want to go any further, because all six shortlisted authors were brilliant and I think it would be too pretentious to go further than to say that Diop’s book and Moskovakis’s translation were seen by most of us as excellent was the book,” Hughes-Hallett said.
Diop is the first French author and the first person of African heritage to win the International Booker. In 2006, Nigerian author Chinua Achebe won the previous iteration of the award, the Man Booker International, when it was a lifetime achievement award.
Diop and Moskovakis were announced as the winners in a virtual celebration streamed live from Coventry Cathedral on Wednesday night. Past winners have included Han Kang of South Korea and Polish Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk, with the winning author enjoying an astronomical increase in sales after the award.
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