David Diop’s At Night All Blood is Black, translated from French by Anna Moschovakis, was announced the winner of the International Booker Prize 2021 on Wednesday, June 2, 2021.
The International Booker Prize, formerly the Man Booker International Prize, is awarded for a single book, either novel or short-story collection, translated into English and published in the UK every year. The work of translators is equally rewarded, with the £50,000 prize divided between the author and the translator of the winning entry. In addition, each shortlisted author and translator receives £1,000 each. In 2016, DR Congo’s Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s Tram 83 made the longlist and Angola’s José Eduardo Agualusa’s A General Theory of Oblivion made the shortlist only to lose out to Korean Han Kang for her book The Vegetarian. Alain Mabanckou made the longlist in 2017.
The judging panel for 2021 was chaired by cultural historian and novelist, Lucy Hughes-Hallett. She led a panel consisting of journalist and writer, Aida Edemariam; Man Booker-shortlisted novelist, Neel Mukherjee; Professor of the History of Slavery, Olivette Otele; and poet, translator, and biographer, George Szirtes. They announced the longlist on March 29 of thirteen books from the 126 books submitted in the past year before the shortlist of six was unveiled on April 22.
The winner announced in a ceremony last night is David Diop, the first French author to win the award. Raised in Senegal, he now lives in France, where he is a professor of 18th-century literature at the University of Pau. At Night All Blood is Black is Diop’s second novel. It was shortlisted for 10 major prizes in France and won the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens as well as the Swiss Prix Ahmadou Korouma. It is currently being translated into 13 languages and has already won the Strega European Prize in Italy.
David Diop said, “I am really extremely happy to have won the International Booker Prize and my first thoughts go to Anna Moschovakis without whom none of us would have won this prize because she is a great writer and a great artist. I would like to thank Daniel Seton and all the team at Pushkin Press for their unfailing support of my book which has led to this extraordinary award. I would also like to thank my literary agent Magalie Delobelle who facilitated an encounter with Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Pushkin Press. I’m very happy and I would like to thank the judges who chose me among the many great writers. So I am at once flattered and I sort of feel as though as I am living in a dream – a waking dream. Thank you to all.”
Anna Moschovakis said, “thank you, thank you so much. It’s a thrill to be in the company of these writers and translators, their wild and brilliant books, and so many small and independent presses. Thank you to the jury, The Booker, to Jeremy Davies, FSG and Pushkin Press, to my family who taught me that language and culture occur in the parallel and such thanks to David Diop for entrusting me with this incredible work. The writer and translator John Keane asks us ‘what does it for us to live with and not to dominate? What does it mean to be together without being the same, to fully accept the idea of difference and all its difficulty and pain and complexity and to be in a continuous conversation about that?’ And I’m just so grateful to translation and to my fellow translators and to those who read and publish translations for keeping me in this conversation.”
Lucy Hughes-Hallett, chair of the judges, says: ‘This story of warfare and love and madness has a terrifying power. The protagonist is accused of sorcery, and there is something uncanny about the way the narrative works on the reader. 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.’
Watch the whole ceremony below;