The English translation of David Diop’s debut novel, At Night All Blood is Black, is forthcoming in October 2020.
An historical novel, At Night All Blood is Black offers us a glimpse into what it was like for “Chocolat soldiers” — that is, Senegalese soldiers — during World War I. The book was originally published in French in 2018. It will be translated into English by Anna Moschovakis.
At Night All Blood is Black was selected by students across France to win the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens. Here is a description from the publisher:
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.
David Diop was born in Paris in 1966. He spent most of his childhood in Senegal before returning to France to continue his education. He became a professor of literature at the Université de Pau et des pays de l’Adour in 1998.
Diop’s novel promises to be an intriguing read into an overlooked facet of WWI. Pre-order your copy now here.