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At Night All Blood Is Black

At Night All Blood Is Black

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David Diop
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Longlisted for the 2021 International Booker Prize |A finalist for theLos Angeles TimesBook Prize

"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 ofTheWall Street Journal's 11 best books of the fall | One ofThe A.V. Club's fifteen best books of 2020 |ASunday Timesbest book of the year

Selected by students across France to win the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens, David Diop’s English-language, historical fiction debutAt 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'sAt Night All Blood is Black is a dazzling tale of a man’s descent into madness.