At Night All Blood is Black By David Diop

At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop

French fiction

Original title – Frère d’âme

Translator – Anna Moschovakis

Source – review copy

Today I move on to world war one and a view of the war from a different angle with the tale of two Senegalese soldiers on the front line in the trenches.  It was written by the French writer David Diop Born in Paris but spent a lot of time in his youth in Senegal. He returned to France to finish his studies, where he has since taught literature at the University of Pau. He wrote a couple of books before this one, but this was his debut novel. The book was shortlisted for Ten major French book prizes when it came out winning the Prix Goncourt des Lyceens the one chosen by High school pupils.

in the trench. I lived like the others , I drank, I ate like the others. Sometimes I sang, like the others. I sing off-key and everyone laughed when I sang ” They would say, “You Ndiayes, you can’t sing” . They made fun of me, a little, but they respected me. They didn’t know what I thoiught od them, I found them Foolish, I found them idotic, becauuse they didn’t think about anything. Soldiers, black or white, who always say “Yes”.  When commanded to leave their shelterof their trench to attack the enemy, defencelesss, it’s yes “When told to play the savage, to scare of the enemy.

A view of how they are viewed in the army says a lot for these tough men.

This is the story of one man and his dead friend Alfa Ndiaye is said to be the son of the old, old man is at the western front fighting for France. He is on the line with his friend  Mademba Diop or as Alfa calls him my more-than-brother. The book opens as Mademba is fatally wound and ask his friend to end his life but he can’t an act he regrets and maybe sets forth the later event in the story?  as he is bleeding from a mortal wound in his stomach. Before he dies Alfa asks who had done the task the dying man can only tell his friend as he is dying that it was a blond blue-eyed german that did the task. He drags his friend from the battlefield back to the French trenches. This is where the story takes a dark turn as Alfa sets about revenge and vengeance for his dead friend so goes over the trench with his machete and returns with hands of dead blonde soldiers every night. as he seeks retribution for his more than a brother. As he does this his fellow soldiers start to fear him. He is offered the military cross for his actions to try and calm Alfa from his mission of revenge but also find out what is driving him to do it.  As he shows how brutal war is but also how badly the Chocolat soldiers were treated this is a dark story.

Gad’s truth, I was inhuman. I didn’t listen to my friend, Iistened to my enemy, So when I capoture the enemy from the other side, when I read in his blue eyes the screams his mouth can’t sling into the skies of war, when his open belly had become nothing more than a pulp of raw flesh, I turn back the clock , I finish off the enemy. As soon as he’s made a second plea with his eyes, I slit his throat like a sacrified lamb. What I didn’t do for Mademba Dioop , I do for my blue eyed enemy.Out of my reclaimed humanity

This is a dark book as we see one man driven by revenge to bring to justice the man that killed his friend as every night he heads out to get another hand off a dead man to add to his collection when he has too many he start to worry his comrades as he describes there is only one other soldier got why he did it and he has since died. I was reminded of the film the patriot where the main character sees his son killed by a callous officer from the other side and sets off on a killing spree with some fellow soldiers here it is one mans revenge. The man he has known since a child died in front of him asked him to put him out of his misery this is heartwrenching as the story becomes just one man’s tale of the war and not even the war but his path of revenge. It shows how guilt can drive someone to do the most horrific acts as a source of comfort for their loss but also we see an often-overlooked corner of the war those Chocolat soldiers as it says in the book those many soldiers that fought in world war one from Africa and Asia that have to often been whitewashed out of history so it is easy to see why this book would do so well oin schools telling an unknown story. Have you read this book?

January 2021
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