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David Diop Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

At Night All Blood Is Black (2018)Description / Buy at Amazon
Beyond the Door of No Return (2023)Description / Buy at Amazon

David Diop

David Diop is a historical fiction author born in Paris and raised in Senegal. His second novel, At Night All Blood is Black won the International Booker Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction. He is the head of the Literature, Arts and Languaged department at the University of Pau, where he researches topics like eighteenth-century French literature.

He also researched the European representations of Africa in the 17th and 18th centuries.

At Night all Blood is Black

The book features Alfa Ndiavye, a Senegalese man who has never left his small Senegalese village. At 20, he joins the French army to fight against the German in World War I. Before he knows it, he finds himself as a ‘Chocolat’ soldier with the French army in the battle.

They fight with a rifle on the one hand and a machete on the other and are forced to leave their trenches while screaming. The white officers encourage the ‘chocolat’ soldiers to bring fear to the enemy by behaving with a lot of savagery at the battle. His friend Mademba Diop is injured in the war; Diop begs Alfa to spare him the pain after being wounded on’ no man’s land’ by killing him.

Alfa is unable to end his friends’ agony and suffering through mercy killing, and madness creeps into his mind, and he sees his denial as a moment of cowardice. He sees through the racism and suffers under the brutal orders he is commanded to follow without any questions.

He believes that it’s crazy to follow the rules since the survival chances are minimal. His pain increases after realizing his friend died while defending the racist regime on the battlefield. Determined to revenge on his friend’s death and find himself forgiveness, he starts a gruesome ritual.

Each night he sneaks and crosses the enemy line to look and kill a German soldier and returns to base, unharmed with a German’s severed hand as a trophy. It’s the overwhelming grief, guilt, and regret that drive him on the mission. At first, the other soldiers congratulate Alfa, but when the hands pile up in the base, rumors circulate that he’s indeed not a hero but a soul eater and a sorcerer. Isn’t it normal for someone to lose their mind after witnessing the brutality?

Other French soldiers start fearing this black man whose body is covered in blood. Plans are laid to take Alfa away from the front and separate him from his growing hands’ collection. When he visits the psychiatrist, we learn about his past, his relation with Mademba Diop, and his family. How does he reason with a demon? How far will Alfa be willing to go to amend his dead friend?

This is a remarkable story peppered with bullets and black magic in the forgotten chapter of World War I. David Diop blends oral storytelling traditions with stout-hearted, daily journalistic horror of life in trenches. At Night all Blood is Black is a wonderful story of a man sinking into madness.
This’s a powerful short novel that brings up questions on the violent echoes of war and colonialism. The writer poses a fundamental question about war while laying the nightmare of war and how it destroys and dehumanizes the soldiers. The prose is terrifying, graphic, and violent to make it more atmospheric and poetic.

The story is dark yet compelling, with twists to keep the reader on their feet to the last page. It’s narrated from Alfa Ndiavye’s point of view as he tells what he goes through in the war. The author used a lot of creativity in creating the protagonist. Alfa narrates the times before and after Mademba’s death for readers to see how inhumanity was injected into him and the consequences of his violence.

This’s a bone-chilling anti-war story that resonates beyond the political, geographical, historical, and racial details. Anna Moschovakis, the translator, has rendered prose into a gorgeous devolution of humanity. The author shows how people can be changed when placed in extraordinary and violent situations.

Diop presents a world where there is no line to divide murder and warfare, courage and madness. This short and emotionally packed novel brings to light the rarely discussed details in Senegalese and French history. At Night All Blood is Black highlights how the French utilized their racist stereotypes of the African soldiers as subhuman, barbaric, and primitive savages to defeat their German enemies. The narration reflects oral traditions and works with mantra-like repetition that resembles a folk song or religious litany.

Book Series In Order » Authors » David Diop

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