The International Booker Prize 2021 Handed To The French - Senegalese Author


While the famous literary award of the Booker Prize announces its winner late in the autumn, the International Booker Prize 2021 has already celebrated the best international book of the year translated in English. David Diop's At Night All Blood Is Black (translated by Anna Moschovakis) won the prize because of its literary qualities.


Diop’s book was first published in France in 2018 under the title Frere d'ame, which translates as “soul brother” (describing the bond of the two Senegalese friends who go to France to fight in the trenches of the First World War). But it is also a pun, sounding like “Frères d’armes” (brothers in arms). The adroitness of this double meaning stumped Anna Moschovakis, the novel’s translator: she acknowledged the “beautiful pun” but went for At Night All Blood is Black because the double nature of Frere d'ame “would be impossible to actually translate.”


In At Night All Blood Is Black Alfa Ndiaye and Mademba Diop are two of the many Senegalese tirailleurs fighting in the Great War under the French flag. Whenever Captain Armand blows his whistle they climb out of their trenches to attack the blue-eyed enemy. But one day Mademba is mortally wounded, and without his friend, his more-than-brother, Alfa is alone amidst the savagery of the trenches, far from all he knows and holds dear. He throws himself into combat with renewed vigour, but soon begins to scare even his own comrades in arms.


David Diop was born in Paris in 1966 and grew up in Senegal. He now lives in France, where he is a professor of eighteenth century literature at the University of Pau. At Night All Blood is Black is David's second novel. It was shortlisted for ten major prizes in France and won the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens as well as the Swiss Prix Ahmadou Korouma. It is currently being translated into 13 languages and has already won the Strega European Prize in Italy.


Diop's novel has competed with the following shortlisted books:

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enríquez, translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell

When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut, translated from Spanish by Adrian Nathan West

The Employees by Olga Ravn, translated from Danish by Martin Aitken

In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova, translated from Russian by Sasha Dugdale

The War of the Poor by Éric Vuillard, translated from French by Mark Polizzotti


The International Booker Prize 2020 was handed to The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld (Dutch-Netherlands), translated by Michele Hutchison.

Featured Posts