Author David Diop and translator Anna Moschovakis have won the 2021 International Booker Prize for At Night All Blood Is Black.
Diop’s novel follows a young man from Senegal who fights in World War I as a soldier for the French army. In a starred review, a critic for Kirkus called the book “a searing, eye-opening tale of innocence destroyed.”
The book is one of the most celebrated French novels of recent years. After its publication in France in 2018, it was shortlisted for 10 major literary awards in that country, including the Prix Goncourt and the Prix Renaudot. It won the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens, an award voted on by thousands of high school students.
Lucy Hughes-Hallett, who chaired the judging panel, said Diop’s novel has “a terrifying power.”
“The protagonist is accused of sorcery, and there is something uncanny about the way the narrative works on the reader,” Hughes-Hallett said. “We judges agreed that its incantatory prose and dark, brilliant vision had jangled our emotions and blown our minds. That it had cast a spell on us.”
Diop is the first French writer to win the International Booker Prize, which was first awarded in its current form—to a specific book translated into English and published in the U.K.—in 2016. Previous winning books have included Han Kang’s The Vegetarian, translated by Deborah Smith, and Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights, translated by Jennifer Croft.
Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and regular contributor to NPR.