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3.5 

At Night All Blood Is Black

By David Diop & Anna Moschovakis
At Night All Blood Is Black by David Diop & Anna Moschovakis digital book - Fable

Publisher Description

*WINNER OF THE 2021 INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE*
*ONE OF PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA'S FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2021*

Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction

Shortlisted for the 2022 DUBLIN Literary Award

"Astonishingly good."
—Lily Meyer, NPR
"So incantatory and visceral I don’t think I’ll ever forget it." Ali Smith, The Guardian | Best Books of 2020

One of The Wall Street Journal's 11 best books of the fall | One of The A.V. Club's fifteen best books of 2020 |A Sunday Times best book of the year

Selected by students across France to win the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens, David Diop’s English-language, historical fiction debut At Night All Blood is Black is a “powerful, hypnotic, and dark novel” (Livres Hebdo) of terror and transformation in the trenches of the First World War.


Alfa Ndiaye is a Senegalese man who, never before having left his village, finds himself fighting as a so-called “Chocolat” soldier with the French army during World War I. When his friend Mademba Diop, in the same regiment, is seriously injured in battle, Diop begs Alfa to kill him and spare him the pain of a long and agonizing death in No Man’s Land.

Unable to commit this mercy killing, madness creeps into Alfa’s mind as he comes to see this refusal as a cruel moment of cowardice. Anxious to avenge the death of his friend and find forgiveness for himself, he begins a macabre ritual: every night he sneaks across enemy lines to find and murder a blue-eyed German soldier, and every night he returns to base, unharmed, with the German’s severed hand. At first his comrades look at Alfa’s deeds with admiration, but soon rumors begin to circulate that this super soldier isn’t a hero, but a sorcerer, a soul-eater. Plans are hatched to get Alfa away from the front, and to separate him from his growing collection of hands, but how does one reason with a demon, and how far will Alfa go to make amends to his dead friend?

Peppered with bullets and black magic, this remarkable novel fills in a forgotten chapter in the history of World War I. Blending oral storytelling traditions with the gritty, day-to-day, journalistic horror of life in the trenches, David Diop's At Night All Blood is Black is a dazzling tale of a man’s descent into madness.

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368 Reviews

3.5
Thumbs Up
Multi-layered charactersOriginal writingFast-pacedUnpredictableDark settingDarkHeartbreakingViolence
Slightly Smiling Face“A book to reflect on war and how the things shown in it can dehumanize a person. That is what happens to Alpha, a man who after seeing his best friend die painfully begins to kill not only through war, but in reveange. And finally when he is taken to rest in a place to recover from the war, Alpha is no longer human, so he finally absorbs the spirit of his best friend (Diop), who died in brutal conditions, but was still human. In short, at the end of the book Alpha identifies with Diop to continue his life and endure it the same time.”
Beautifully writtenFast-pacedDark
Thinking Face“I honestly really liked the messages in the novel but the way it’s written leads me to believe that the book was poorly translated, as many terms were repeated an annoying amount of times and at certain points the timeline was unclear. The timeline definitely wasn’t linear but it felt like there was an issue apart from that.”
Multi-layered charactersDescriptive writingSuspensefulUnpredictableDark settingDarkThought-provokingViolenceBad writingUnsatisfying ending

About David Diop

David Diop was born in Paris and was raised in Senegal. He is the head of the Arts, Languages, and Literature Department at the University of Pau, where his research includes such topics as eighteenth-century French literature and European representations of Africa in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. His second novel, At Night All Blood Is Black, was awarded the International Booker Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction.

Anna Moschovakis's books of poetry include the James Laughlin Award–winning You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake and a novel, Eleanor, or, The Rejection of the Progress of Love. Her translations from the French include Albert Cossery’s The Jokers, Annie Ernaux’s The Possession, and Bresson on Bresson.

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