French author Diop wins Booker Prize

David Diop is the first French author to claim the International Booker Prize.

JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press

LONDON — A harrowing but poetic tale of comradeship, colonialism and the horrors of war won the International Booker Prize for fiction Wednesday.

“At Night All Blood is Black” by French writer David Diop beat five other finalists to take the $70,000 prize, which is open to fiction in any language that has been translated into English. The prize money will be split between the author and his translator, Anna Moschovakis. 

Diop is the first French author to win the prize, a counterpart to the prestigious Booker Prize for English-language fiction.

The novel’s narrator is a Senegalese soldier fighting for France during World War I, and the story charts his descent into madness on the battlefield.

British author Lucy Hughes-Hallett, who chaired the judging panel, said the “hypnotically compelling” book was both “appalling” and poetic. She said the book enters “the reader’s consciousness at a level that bypasses rationality and transcends the subject matter.”

“You have to read this book, and you will come away from it changed,” she said.

Diop’s novel was chosen by five judges over contenders including “In Memory of Memory” by Russian writer Maria Stepanova and the short story collection “The Dangers of Smoking in Bed” by Argentina’s Mariana Enriquez. 

Diop’s novel, which was published in French in 2018, resonates with present-day debates about racism and colonialism.

Hughes-Hallett said the judges favored the book not “because it speaks to the current conversation about racial politics” but because “it spoke to us with the most power.”

 

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