Review: At Night All Blood Is Black by David Diop translated by Anna Moschovakis (2021)


Winner of the International Booker Prize 2021

Alfa and Mademba are two of the many Senegalese soldiers fighting in the Great War. Together they climb dutifully out of their trenches to attack France’s German enemies whenever the whistle blows, until Mademba is wounded, and dies in a shell hole with his belly torn open.

Without his more-than-brother, Alfa is alone and lost amidst the savagery of the conflict. He devotes himself to the war, to violence and death, but soon begins to frighten even his own comrades in arms. How far will Alfa go to make amends to his dead friend?

At Night All Blood is Black is a hypnotic, heartbreaking rendering of a mind hurtling towards madness.


I’ve had this book on my shelf for a little while, and I’m trying to mix up reading arcs with books I’ve actually bought this year, so I picked it up.

At Night All Blood Is Black is an incredibly intense read – short but so powerful; it left me reeling. The prose is so rhythmic, with repeated refrains such as ‘God’s truth’ and ‘I know, I understand’ echoing throughout the pages – it almost feels like reading poetry. This book is not for the faint-hearted: it plunges the reader headlong into the visceral madness of war, blood and guts spilling and atrocities piling up along with the bodies. But as hard as it is to face up to the violence, the story is also about love and friendship, with the relationship between the narrator and his more-than-brother Mademba firmly at its centre.

The style of writing reminded me at times of Cormac McCarthy – there is a terrible beauty in the way horrors are shaped into words by a skilful hand. But it’s also utterly unique – I can’t compare it to another reading experience. Awful and awe-inspiring, Diop’s tale of the so-called Great War stands apart as a fierce, captivating examination of the effects of cumulative violence. It is certainly a novel that will stay with me.

At Night All Blood Is Black by David Diop translated by Anna Moschovakis is published by Pushkin Press and is available to purchase here.


3 thoughts on “Review: At Night All Blood Is Black by David Diop translated by Anna Moschovakis (2021)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s