At Night All Blood is Black, penned by David Diop and transcribed from French by Anna Moschovakis, declared the 2021 International Booker Prize winner.
The £50,000 prize will be divided between David Diop and Anna Moschovakis, addressing the author and translator similar recognition. The winner was declared by the chair of the judges, Lucy Hughes-Hallett, through a virtual presentation from Coventry Cathedral, which was streamed over Facebook and YouTube pages. The edition of the novel in French, Frère d’âme, got the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens in 2018.
David Diop, born in 1966 in Paris, is the first French author to get the International Booker Prize. Grown in Senegal, he now resides in France. He is an educator at the University of Pau teaching 18th-century literature. At Night All Blood is Black is the next novel of Diop. It was shortlisted for ten significant prizes in France and got the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens and the Swiss Prix Ahmadou Korouma. It is now being translated into 13 different languages and has previously gained the Strega European Prize, Italy.
Anna Moschovakis is an author, poet, and translator. His works include the James Laughlin Award-winning poetry collection You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake and the novel Eleanor: The Rejection of the Progress of Love. Her translations from French incorporate Annie Ernaux’s The Possession, Albert Cossery’s The Jokers, and Bresson on Bresson.
At Night All Blood is Black depicts a young man’s descent into madness and narrates the little-heard story of the Senegalese who struggled for France on the Western Front during World War I. After his best friend is mortally injured in battle, Alfa, the protagonist, is alone amidst the savagery of the trenches, far from all he knows and cherishes. He throws himself into fighting with renewed vigor but soon begins to frighten even his comrades.
The New York Times detailed that At Night All Blood Is Black is more than a lone man’s spiritual burden. Diop realizes the fundamental nature of war — that theatre of macabre and intense drama — on the page. According to them, the writer took his character into the depths of hell and let him grow there.
The Spectator stated that Diop, with elegant brevity, presented a world with no fixed dividing line between murder, warfare, courage, and madness. The most dedicated killers are granted the Croix de Guerre. Angelique Chrisaf has mentioned in the Guardian that the novel discusses a story woefully missing from French history records.
At Night All Blood is Black was picked from a shortlist of six titles during a long and meticulous judging process by a jury of five judges, chaired by Lucy Hughes-Hallett, the cultural historian and novelist. The panel also included:
- Aida Edemariam, Journalist and writer.
- Neel Mukherjee, Man Booker-shortlisted novelist.
- Olivette Otele who is a Professor of the History of Slavery.
- George Szirtes is a poet, translator, and biographer.
Lucy Hughes-Hallett, chair of the judges, said that it is a story of warfare and love and madness has a terrifying power. The protagonist is involved in sorcery, and there is something uncanny about the way the narrative works on the reader. They judged & agreed that its incantatory prose and dark, brilliant vision had jangled their emotions and blown their minds. It had cast a spell on them.
The International Booker Award is awarded every year for a single book interpreted into English and printed in the UK or Ireland. It intends to encourage more publishing and reading of quality fiction from all over the world and assist translators’ work. Both novels and short-story compilations are eligible. The contribution of the author and
translator is granted equal recognition, with the £50,000 prize division between them. Each shortlisted author and translator will get £1,000, bringing the total amount of the award to £62,000.