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David Diop Awarded 2021 International Booker Prize

French-Senegalese writer, David Diop, has been awarded this year’s prestigious International Booker Prize for his debut novel At Night All Blood Is Black. In a notable historic moment, he is also the first French writer to be awarded this literary prize, according to several reports. Diop had initially been longlisted for the prize alongside veteran Kenyan author, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, for his novel The Perfect Nine — the first ever entry to have been written in the indigenous African language of Gikuyu.


READ: Author David Diop Makes International Booker Prize ShortlistAuthor David Diop Makes International Booker Prize Shortlist

At Night All Blood Is Black was reportedly inspired by Diop’s grandfather and the personal experiences he had during World War I. The novel is described by OkayAfrica‘s Nobantu Shabangu as follows:

“The historically-influenced novel is written in the active voice of its protagonist Alfa Ndiyae, a young recruit from a village in Senegal. Diop attempts to make sense of the psychological tension faced by Alfa Ndiyae, who is caught up in the madness of a war that weaponised Black bodies for its own agendas. Ndiyae is subsequently driven to revenge on white soldiers after witnessing the terrible death of his best friend Mademba Diop and, so, heads into the enemy lines.”

The BBC reports that chair of the judges, Lucy Hughes-Hallett, described Diop’s offering saying, “We judges agreed that its incantatory prose and dark, brilliant vision had jangled our emotions and blown our minds,” and going on to add, “That it had cast a spell on us.”

According to The Guardian, Diop was born in Paris to a French mother and Senegalese father and spent his childhood in Senegal. Thereafter, he returned to France and eventually became a professor of 18th-century literature at the University of Pau. His £50 000 prize money will be split between himself and Anna Moschovakis who translated his novel into English.

The International Booker Prize is awarded annually to a single book that is translated to English and published in either the UK or Ireland. Previous winners include British-Nigerian writer Bernadine Evaristo who became the first ever Black woman to be awarded the prize in 2019.

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